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By The Drum | Editorial

December 6, 2023 | 6 min read

Pizza Hut Australia and WireCo have won the Food and Drink category at The Drum Awards for Content. Here is the award-winning case study.

WE SOCIALLY HACKED AUSTRALIA’S SUPER BOWL, DELIVERING PIZZA HUT’S BIGGEST-EVER SALES MONTH AND AN ROI OF 6.7. Faced with the challenge of growing and protecting your brand, would you play it safe? Or be brave and socially hijack Australia’s biggest sporting event in real time?

For brands, there’s something awesomely attractive, yet fierce about State of Origin; after all, it’s Australia’s Super Bowl. But for any brand brave enough to attempt a slice of the action without paying a hefty fee to the NRL, there’s scrum sized consequences (financial and reputational) for breaking their ‘ironclad’ rules. That’s why you probably can’t name many brands who’ve tried or succeeded?

We didn’t pay a cent, but that didn’t stop The Agency Hut from daring to hack Australia's biggest sporting event in real-time, creating one of the most successful social campaigns in Pizza Hut’s 50+ year history.

PIZZA HUT HAD BECOME A FORGOTTEN BRAND. Only six years ago, Pizza Hut Australia was facing extinction. Poor brand management and operations led to the demise of a leading giant. Today, with new management, and a laser focus on product and service, it’s a challenger and Australia’s fastest growing QSR. And we’re creeping up hot on heels of our own arch-rival, Domino’s.

You see, for both brands, State of Origin is a battleground for share of mouth. Over the three Origin games, there's a different kind of rivalry being played out alongside the rugby; a game of Domino’s (Blues) vs. Pizza Hut (Reds). You see, on game nights, both brands do some of their biggest volumes. Good right? Yes, but we can’t keep up! Demand for our pizzas on game night surges. And if we can’t keep up, we face losing our share of mouth and our 38-month run as Australia’s fastest growing QSR position.

This got The Agency Hut group thinking, why create demand on just three nights when you can create higher demand across the whole six weeks of State of Origin? Our goal; flatten the peaks. Turn the mood of the rivalry to our advantage by driving demand not just on the three Origin game nights, but every night in the six weeks around the games, thus stealing share of voice and mouth from our rival, Domino’s.

Our brief as The Agency Hut (WiredCo., Initiative, VMLY&R and Pizza Hut Creative) was to create a campaign that propelled the brand into culture and achieved the following: ● Connect to a relevant cultural moment, in an easy to understand way. ● Limit the troughs and maintain the peaks across the whole six weeks of Origin ● Deliver $1.375M in reportable revenue with an ROI of 3 ● Make it Pizza Hut’s biggest sales month ever, beating the previous record by 2%. ● Defend our fastest growing QSR position.

The only way to do that was to break some rules. NRL sized rules! State of Origin is Australia’s Super Bowl. Two states, NSW and QLD, go head-to-head in a legendary rivalry. Blues vs. Maroons in a three-game play-off. But what do you do if you can’t afford to become an official sponsor of Australia’s biggest sporting event? We did it again, we broke some rules and socially hacked State of Origin.

Meet Sauce of Origin. Australia’s newest super game. Back your sauce, back your state. Sauce of Origin was a six-week national game played out in real-time on social using customer sales data, driving consistently high revenue for our franchisees. To play, simply order a pizza and back your state by choosing from a free blue or maroon sauce.

HACKING SOMETHING SO ICONIC AND ‘IRONCLAD’ PRESENTS BIG RISKS. Most brands would have retreated at the first whisper of risk. Pizza Hut, rejuvenated and emboldened to protect its fastest growing position, went full challenger. Aside from the risk of being pursued by the NRL, our main challenge was knowing where and when to connect with our 14-35 target. So, we deployed our WireTappingTM research and insights process to uncover some digitally, humanly truths.

We discovered that 27% of the 3 Million Australian Gen Z’s on Snapchat and TikTok consume their news via their discovery and ‘for you’ feeds, spending a combined average of 80 mins a day on each platform. This gave us perspective on how and where to play. Working as The Agency Hut team, we built our whole Sauce of Origin campaign around this, acting as an unofficial Origin commentator. Using interest targeting, we talked directly to people who were interested in particular states. Love Blues? Then we targeted you with Blues related Sauce of Origin content and trivia. Even Fox Sports anchor and ex-NSW State of Origin player, Braith Anasta got in on the action, becoming the official Sauce of Origin commentator. And as the unofficial commentator to Origin, we used sales data to keep a scoreboard on social tracking each state’s progress. With thousands of Australians playing along, we then amplified this content out when the corresponding games were being played and broadcast live to millions of Australians.

In doing this we gamified the legendary NSW and Queensland rivalry, getting thousands of more people on social debating and guessing who would win. We even gave people their own Sauce of Origin game to play on the back of their box, with thousands playing along at home.

The Agency Hut didn’t just play the game. It changed the game, kicking some legendary goals. ● Limited the troughs and maintained the peaks, bringing in an extra $1,160 per store per week, that's $1.87 Million in additional revenue across the network ● Delivered $3.1M in reportable revenue, beating our $1.37M goal by 227% ● Made it Pizza Hut’s biggest sales month ever, beating their previous record by 5% ($1.2M) ● Defended our fastest growing QSR position, delivering our 39th month of consecutive same stores sales growth. In addition, WiredCo.'s Snapchat focused strategy drove a ROAS of $65.46, with a 58% increase in volume of purchases vs. the period before the campaign. And we didn’t do this playing by the rules, we rewrote the rules of digitally hacking a national sporting event in real-time, delivering an ROI on reportable revenue directly attributed to the campaign of $6.75 for every $1.

Today, Pizza Hut reigns super supreme as Australia’s fastest growing QSR brand. With 53 consecutive months of positive same store sales growth, we’ve proven that brand building activity like Sauce of Origin has both short- and long-term business effects. So, whilst the Maroons won State of Origin, Blues won Sauce of Origin. And the real winners in the legendary Domino’s vs. Pizza Hut rivalry? Team red, of course.

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