With NFL kickoff just around the corner — and the NBA and NHL seasons not far behind — millions of Americans face a game-changing decision: where to get their pizza. And pizza brands big and small are investing heavily to sway these crucial choices their way.
As consumers ready their delivery orders, we took a look at how the nation’s leading pizza brands are using TV advertising to drive engagement and rack up new sales. Through our investment-grade outcomes data, we analyzed every pizza ad that ran on national TV during the first half of 2023, measuring how likely consumers were to engage with the advertising brand in the minutes after the ad aired.
One surprise winner? Marco’s Pizza. Though smaller than rivals like Papa Johns and Domino’s, the Toledo-based chain was the most effective pizza advertiser of H1 2023, with ads that were 114% more likely to generate engagement than the average pizza commercial during this period.
And that’s just one of the tasty insights we uncovered in our analysis of every pizza ad that ran on national TV during H1 2023.
By reading on, you’ll learn how brands like Domino’s, Papa Johns, and Pizza Hut stacked up against the competition, which TV networks delivered the highest engagement for pizza advertisers, and which creative messages resonated most with consumers.
Domino’s Dominates Spending, Marco’s Maxes Out Engagement
Whether it’s pepperoni or Hawaiian, everybody loves a good pizza. That’s why the global pizza industry is worth $160 billion and gradually growing, according to a report by AaronAllen & Associates Global Restaurant Consultants. No wonder the five highest-spending advertisers in the category shelled out $374 million for TV advertising during the first half of 2023 alone, according to EDO spending estimates.
The leading spender in the category was Domino’s Pizza, which purchased $183.75 million worth of television advertising, translating to 121,000 airings and 45.5 billion impressions. But while the brand accounted for 51% of all TV ad impressions in the pizza category during H1 2023, its ads were nearly 30% less effective at generating engagement than the average pizza advertiser.
By contrast, Marco’s Pizza spent an estimated $27.8 million on TV advertising during this period — about 15% of Domino’s spend — but its ads were far more engaging. Marco’s ads were 114% more effective than the average ad in the pizza category during the first half of the year. Since its creative efforts are working, the brand is well-positioned to generate even more engagement by increasing its investment in top-performing ads and using intelligent creative rotation strategies to keep creatives fresh and maximize performance.
Marco’s was followed in the engagement rankings by Pizza Hut (59% more engaging than the average category ad), Papa Johns (13%), and Little Caesars (9%). Across the category, consumers were 8% more engaged with pizza ads in H1 2023 than they were during H2 2022.
Money-Saving Deals Deliver Ad Effectiveness
The most effective advertising messages in the pizza category this year offered consumers a clear value proposition: you can enjoy a large serving of delicious pizza for a low, low price.
Take the most engaging ad in the category, a :15 spot from Marco’s advertising unlimited medium, one-topping pizzas for $6.99 each. Short, sweet, and to the point, this ad combined mouthwatering shots of pepperoni pizza with a message that encouraged consumers to buy extra pizza for affordable leftovers. Viewers who saw the ad were 139% more likely to engage with Marco's Pizza than they were to engage with the average pizza brand advertiser.
Pizza Hut had three entrants in the top ten most effective ads. The brand’s most successful creative, a :15 ad for its Pizza Hut Melts dish, advertised enough food for two people for just $6.99, and it generated 69% more engagement than the average category ad.
Live Sports and Early Evening Advertising Fuel Pizza Performance
Even if you have a brilliant creative message, pizza ads must air at the right time to generate meaningful results. For instance, you can't expect a pizza ad that runs at breakfast time to inspire as much engagement as one that runs while viewers are hankering for a dinner-time pizza fix.
According to EDO's insights from H1 2023, the optimal time for pizza creatives was the early fringe period from 4pm-8pm. Consumers who saw pizza ads during this daypart were 33% more likely to engage with the brand than they were with the average pizza ad.
Our data also confirmed something we already knew: fresh pizza and live sports are a match made in heaven. Pizza ads were 22% more effective when they aired during live sporting events, with NBA and NFL games creating the greatest impact.
Top-performing networks for the category included Fuse (viewers of Fuse were 89% more likely to search for the brands in the pizza ads they saw as compared to viewers of the average cable network), FOX (where viewers were 44% more likely), BET (36%), NBA TV (36%), and Universal Kids (30%).
Monitor Your Pizza TV Ad Campaigns with EDO
As pizza brands suit up for another season of high-stakes NFL advertising, it’s never been more important to ensure that the ads you’re buying actually generate the engagement you need to deliver a strong return on investment.
Whether you’re looking to identify your most effective creative messages, explore new media-buying opportunities, or maximize performance with creative rotation optimization, EDO has you covered. For more fresh-baked insights into the restaurant industry, check out our recent report on TV advertising engagement among quick-service restaurants—or schedule a meeting with us on our website.