- Papa John's has selected Endeavor Global Marketing (EGM), the creative division of the Endeavor holding group, as its new agency of record (AOR), according to a report in Adweek. EGM works with brands, such as Visa and T-Mobile, but being named creative agency of record for a major marketer like Papa John's is a first for the company.
- Bozoma Saint John, who joined Endeavor as CMO earlier this summer after a one-year stint as marketing chief for Uber, helped lead the final pitch for Papa John's account, per Adweek. EGM was chosen over two other agencies that were weren't named following a review that began less than a month ago. Papa John's marketing services were previously handled by Laundry Service.
- Saint John told Adweek the relationship with Papa John's will include traditional advertising, social media, public relations and "cultural help" — a likely nod to racist comments made by founder and former CEO John Schnatter in May and discoveries reported by Forbes of an overall toxic internal company culture that have sent perceptions of the brand into a tailspin over the past month. EGM will begin working on Papa John's channels immediately and plans to roll out a full campaign this fall. Saint John said Papa John's needs a culturally-focused, "deeply moving" campaign rather than an apology to redeem itself, per Adweek.
EGM has its work cut out for it in trying to rehabilitate Papa John's brand image, especially since the pizza company, in its name and consumer-facing marketing, has historically been so closely tied to Schnatter, who continues to be very public about combating his ousting. Saint John noting that Endeavor's strategy will potentially eschew an apology tour breaks with what other embattled companies have done recently to try and spark a turnaround. The approach risks further backlash from people offended by Schnatter's behavior and expecting greater amends, but could make an impact by being forward-looking and appealing to emotion and inclusivity.
Facebook, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, launched an extensive campaign apologizing for its mishaps with user data and promising to get back to the halcyon days of the platform. The effort has been met with some derision from cultural critics, including the late night host John Oliver, who created a parody of the creative. Wells Fargo and Uber have rolled out similarly apologetic marketing pushes confronting their scandals, often at steep financial cost, per The Wall Street Journal.
Saint John may be good choice for helping Papa John's turn things around given her prior work at Uber. Saint John joined the ride-sharing service at a time when it was grappling with a mounting series of image problems, including accusations that it fostered a hostile work environment for women. However, she left after just a year with the company, and it's possible that Papa John's problems run deeper from a consumer perception standpoint given Schnatter's long-running position as pitchman and face of the brand. Papa John's business was also already facing considerable struggles before the current scandal.
Schnatter first stepped down as CEO of the fast-food chain in November following controversial comments that he made about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, where he blamed the chain's poor financial performance in part on their behavior. The company then ended its partnership as the official pizza sponsor of the football league.
Last month, Forbes reported that Schnatter used the "n"-word and made other racially-insensitive comments during a media training call in May with former agency Laundry Service. He resigned as chairman of the chain following the report. Papa John's has also since moved to strip Schnatter's name and image from its marketing materials, but the executive has fought to keep his leadership position and this week insisted he remain its public face, according to ABC News.