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Whether for its original stuffed-crust concept (now duplicated by many), the pizza lunch buffet, or (most recently) the hot dog crust, Pizza Hut is known for its disruptive tendencies in the world of pizza.

For Pizza Hut’s most recent gastronomic creation, a two-foot long pizza called “The Big Flavor Dipper,” the company turned to Tim Staples and Shareability’s Nick Reed to create an exclusively Web-based, socially shared marketing campaign. The campaign, dubbed “The Dangers of Selfie Sticks PSA,” has been an unmitigated success, with over 4 million views on YouTube in the past three months alone.

Baron Concors, chief digital officer at Pizza Hut, was looking to make an impact with non-traditional buzz about the new product. “The Big Flavor Dipper was big, and we wanted to make an impact befitting the product. So we chose to lean into an enormous digital video activation in partnership with Pepsi to ensure the content was seen and the brand’s cultural connection was solid,” shared Concors.

Said Staples, “What we saw was the hot trend that selfie sticks were getting longer and longer. That lined up beautifully with this monster-sized pizza.” Shareability has found success with numerous clients, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Sony, Pepsi and ESPN, by digging a little deeper into what is culturally hot in social media. Staples added, “What we do is combine brands with topics which are culturally relevant.”

Pizza Hut created a viral hit with their comedic PSA. According to Concors, this innovative and creative campaign was the second-most shared ad in the world during the month of May, and YouTube referrals to PizzaHut.com increased by a whopping 4000 percent.

This was an even bigger surprise for Pizza Hut in light of the gamble they took in only lightly branding the YouTube spot. Said Concors, “We took an entertainment-first approach by branding the video so lightly – it was a gamble for us to pull back on our natural inclination as marketers to brand every moment of this thing. We crafted a killer piece of culturally relevant content first, then integrated the brands subtly. The product wasn’t the hero; the brand message wasn’t the payoff or punchline. We were naturally integrated into the story in the blink of an eye, and our light touch paid off.”

According to Staples, this is the new way to promote online, particularly with Millennials, “In respect to big brand videos, less is more.” He added, “No one wants to be sold to. When you give them something of value, something funny and entertain them, now they want to be part of the conversation and are willing to take a step beyond to go and click on a website or learn about a promotional offer because you made the first step in their direction, instead of asking them to take the first step in yours.”

Beyond YouTube, Pizza Hut is very active online and their strategy is specific to each social channel. For example, they use Facebook to drive transactions with tailored messaging, while Twitter is primarily used for always-on content and one-to-one conversations. Concors said Pizza Hut has begun doing interesting work on Instagram because the platform facilitates telling a visually compelling and authentic story. Snapchat is on Pizza Hut’s radar for further exploration.

Beyond the power of online advertising to drive traffic, the 120-second merger of the giant selfie stick with the monster pizza caused a profound realization for Concors: “We learned that creating engaging, relatable content is a winning formula for relevance. It’s not about the real-time culture-jacking tweets anymore; to break through the clutter, we need a creative idea anchored in cultural insight — and scale.”

Baron Concors and Tim Staples will both join AdAge’s Maureen Morrison on stage at GrowthBeat tomorrow. It’s not too late to grab a ticket!


View the YouTube video of “The Dangers of Selfie Sticks PSA” below:


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