Papa John's Marketing VP Ensign Discusses Digital Marketing, The Brand And The Keep

Papa JohnsJim Ensign is Vice President, Digital Marketing of Papa John's International, the world's third largest pizza company.

He recently spoke to AdExchanger.com about data-driven media and his expectations for AdKeeper. Papa John's is one of the initial brands to sign-up for Adkeeper's "keep" product. Read the release.

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AdExchanger.com: Can you talk a little bit about your responsibilities?

JE: Sure, as vice president of digital marketing, I'm responsible for, obviously, everything that's in my title ‑‑ driving and utilizing digital channels and digital tools to be able to drive sales at Papa John's. That includes, to a great extent, growing our digital sales business. We have been the leader in online sales of pizza. We were the first national pizza chain to have online ordering available at all of its restaurants. We were the first national pizza chain to break through $2 billion in online sales last year.

A big focus of mine is to continue to grow and expand the digital channels for ordering pizza. Then, utilize digital as a marketing tool not only for online sales but also for traditional sales, whether they're phone orders or carryout.

It's an all‑encompassing role, but with real, key focus on e‑commerce.

AdExchanger.com: Given your e‑commerce focus, how do you integrate the needs of the brand with your direct response goals? Is it difficult?

Well, we've got the benefit of having a very strong brand position. That really goes back to having the involvement of an active founder. John is a real person and very involved in the business. He focuses on quality which is, obviously, our position ‑‑ that comes through with better ingredients, better pizza in our tagline.

We've stayed so true to our core which is high‑quality pizza, delivered hot and fresh with that quality guarantee of our founder, that it gives us, I think, more leverage to become more focused on direct response with some of our strategies to drive e‑commerce sales. Ultimately, it’s all still wrapped up underneath a very strong brand position.

AdExchanger.com: Do you think of the digital channel as just a DR marketing opportunity?

It depends on how you define the broader digital channel, we do absolutely see it as both. Digital is a place where we do engage with our customers quite a bit such as through the actual process of ordering our pizza. For example, we've built tools into our new platform that allow our customers to really enjoy and engage in the process of making their pizza. If you make a pizza on papajohns.com, you're actually following the exact same specs that we do in the restaurant. It uses a Flash pizza builder.

If you look at Facebook, for example, we have over one and half million fans. We find that's a wonderful place for us to engage with our founder, and the activities he's involved with, how he's always focused on quality but moving forward with the brand.

AdExchanger.com: Let’s look at the display channel.  What are you doing there today?

We use many different tools in display.  Not only do we have initial acquisition, retargeting is absolutely a part of the overall strategy. There’s also blending search and display together and leveraging them together. Finally, we are integrating into social tools and making sure that everything works across all digital channels in an integrated fashion.

AdExchanger.com: Let’s look at your interest in using AdKeeper.  What's your expectation about the AdKeeper offering? What do you hope happens?

What we hope happens with AdKeeper is that it’s a convenience tool for our customers to ensure that we're there when they need us. For Papa John's, not only is it about quality, but it's also about convenience and ease for the customers. We want to remove as much friction as possible. And if AdKeeper is another tool to make that happen, that's wonderful.

Much of what we have done with our digital presence over the years has been focused at making it easy for customers. For example, we have plan-ahead ordering, or future ordering, available on our website which allows the customer to actually place their orders up to 30 days in advance. That's part of that whole convenience factor.

We see AdKeeper as another extension of convenience for consumers. If they're in the midst of, or engaged with, another site, but they don't want to forget about the opportunity to learn a little bit more about what Papa John's has to offer, AdKeeper allows them to do it.

AdExchanger.com: There’s a trend out there for buying audience, versus buying placement in display. What's your view on that? Do you still care about where you ads run?

I don't think it's as simple as saying that there's one answer that fits every situation, for any particular marketer. Here are a couple of examples.

We have a partnership with the NFL. We're the official pizza sponsor of the NFL, as well as the Super Bowl. Part of our whole approach was to ensure that we leveraged that, by being in the places where consumers are, when they're interacting with the NFL.

So, we have some fixed placements in those specific situations, and certainly with NFL.com.

Next, stepping back a bit, you can easily surmise that the audience for NFL, whether you're capturing it through ESPN, or NBCSports.com or anything else, is a pizza eating audience.

On the other side of the equation, we probably take it a little bit further than just buying audiences. In fact, we buy audiences when they're hungry and ready to order pizza.

So, we really look to identify optimization strategies that are not just about buying audiences, but actually optimize against buying the right audience, at the right time, and the right place, when they're ready to order pizza.

At Papa John's you can order it any time you want, you order it online. So, by placing our display advertising, and optimizing it against those sites, those times, those audiences, that are most responsive, and are going to actually be placing that order, we're able to optimize our overall investment.

AdExchanger.com: Beyond ROI, what are some of the success metrics or outcomes that you're looking for, from your digital marketing plan?

We have different metrics depending on our different objectives. If you look at some of our metrics, it's very straightforward in that we are driving incremental sales from existing customers, and acquisitions of new customers. We'll have two different acceptable ROI measures on that, for generating a new customer versus generating incremental transactions from different customers.

The other metrics that we will also look at include metrics from some of our email programs, our SMS text programs, or even our loyalty programs. We have an online rewards program called, "My Papa Points," where customers who enroll in the "My Papa Points" program, actually earn points towards free pizza.

So, we'll have different metrics that we'll look at depending on the overall objectives that we have. But they do run the range of engagement - all the way through the actual sale.

AdExchanger.com: So are you using the AdKeeper today wrapped around your display?

We're in the process of identifying where and when to do that.

If you think about our marketing, we may have different kinds of messages where the AdKeeper will make a little bit more sense than will others. We do a lot of limited time offers.  In some cases, that might be a little harder to deal with, in an AdKeeper environment. Where we may have offers that are very time sensitive for a specific day when that banner is delivered.

Other situations, like I talked about before, where we're may be trying to drive people to join our "My Papa Points Program," these are more evergreen and strategically better aligned with AdKeeper in my opinion.

So, AdKeeper is a very strategic tool for us to use. It probably wouldn't be a part of every single element we do, but would certainly be an important element of other marketing that we're going to be pursuing.

By John Ebbert

 

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