Papa John's Pizza


recovery operation

With declining sales and loss in brand equity due to a scandal with its CEO, Papa John’s was looking for a new agency. Fast. In the pizza capital of the world, New Yorkers had other options, and they were leaving the brand. In short: This was a recovery operation.

GOING BIG BY GOING SMALL: Big challenges deserve big ideas. We supported the national brand community messaging featuring the Shaq-a-Roni $1 giveback, but launched what would eventually become thousands of micro-campaigns, customized locally. Community building messages had to be met with actual community building for each and every franchise location, and a platform would need to support it all.


Instead of focusing on defensive arguments, we helped control the story with our client’s powerful truth — the fact that the local store operators in New York looked a lot more like the people they served than the CEO who had offended them.

We went local, engaging local schools, community centers and telling our story first by show, then by tell. DBA launched a Community Connect program which had been previously proven with our other clients.

The Platform.


Compounding the brand challenge, we identified major gaps in media reach. The previous agency's programmatic media solution didn’t include the most important publishers such as Instagram, Digital OOH or Digital TV. Shocking, right?

Unfortunately, this is normal at the co-op level. Local franchise operators don’t have the resources or budget to manually place omnichannel campaigns around small service areas, so they pick a few narrow channels. Papa John’s needed an automated and affordable solution to add individual micro-campaigns for hundreds of local franchise operators. Born in the franchise industry, DBA already had the platform.

Proven on other DBA franchise brands, Sequential Digital was launched for AI-powered, hyper-targeted advertising that allowed owners to add multiple channels and win the ground war in the most competitive pizza market in the U.S. By placing entire campaigns around stores rather than DMA’s, Papa John’s was finally able to eliminate wasted ad spend – due to advertising fatigue or media inventory gaps on a narrow channel set.

Maximize reach with more channels
Geo-fenced exposure at key pizza buying moments

Minimize cost with less geography
Cut wasted dollars on off hours promotions, unrepresented delivery areas and fatigue on a narrow set of channels.


As we were putting the pipes in place, we simultaneously worked on the message to be delivered through these new channels. We turned to our Community Connect platform.
We asked ourselves, “How can Papa John’s be a better brand for a better human condition in the local communities where they serve?"
Students at local high schools were hit hard by lack of food and supplies. School lunch was the only source of food for some children, and kids were starving in the lockdown. DBA saw a place for Papa John’s franchises to step in and help their communities by donating to schools in need and promoting high school sports.

Our recommendation: Make a quick message reset. We switched from running the “$12 Any” large pizza with any toppings offer to "No Contact Delivery" and invested in local school engagement. Papa John’s quickly acted to donate hundreds of pizzas to schools in New York and New Jersey.

Services Completed:



The New York region saw double digit growth and became a benchmark for Papa John’s in the Philadelphia, DC and Chicago regions, where the platform was deployed for increased sales to create more top performing markets.

  • Positive 10.6% PSA store growth in the Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
  • 27% increase in sales for the key growing 25-34 demographic in the pilot markets, proving the model for the national results that followed in excess of 33%.
  • Out-Pizza’d the Hut: Took market share of wallet from Pizza Hut while blunting Dominos growth in all major NY markets.

Client Testimony

“ We tested Sequential Digital by adding it to a single store... We saw Sequential Digital deliver a dramatic sales lift in comparison to our nearby Newark stores. A clear winner."
– Joe Johnson, Multi-franchise owner, E&R Foods.


16,000 CAMPAIGNS: DBA co-developed Sequential Digital as a platform to organize an omni-channel, geo-mapped campaign for each franchise in exchange for just a credit card. To date, DBA has taken on the Hyperlocal Digital campaigns of hundreds of individual Papa John’s franchises. This automation tech helps DBA run 16,000 separate media campaigns per year for Papa John’s alone.

$2 COST PER ACQUISITION: After conducting research on when the ideal CPA was reached, Sequential Digital was able to pin down the key time and place to promote each Papa John’s location. Franchisees were able to watch their CPA fall, in real-time on personalized dashboards, from over $10 to under $2.

VARIABLE MESSAGING: In fact, due to the hyperlocal digital campaign, DBA was able to create a variable messaging campaign at a store-by-store level. This became critical during the Covid pandemic because some stores were held under quarantine and could not deliver pizza, so our advertising needed to pause where the capacity was down and increase where the opportunity to serve a virtual customer was driving sales up.


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