Will the arrival in the UK of Papa John’s Pizza spell more fun and games for Papa’s “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza” tagline?
Topic: Comparative advertising
Who: Papa John’s Pizza
When: March 2001
America’s fastest growing pizza home delivery company announced it was due to launch in the UK in March 2001. It plans to re-brand all the Perfect Pizza outlets it bought last year and open up to 200 more, aiming to dominate the UK’s home delivery pizza market within 5 years.
In so doing it is doubtless hoping to avoid the epic dispute it has been embroiled in stateside over the last two years, over its "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza." strapline. This was first challenged by Pizza Hut before the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaux ("NAD"). This is the US equivalent of our ASA/CAP self regulatory system for non broadcast ads. As with the ASA/CAP system, those who make complaints to the NAD undertake not to litigate over the same complaint while the NAD is processing the complaint.
Papa John defended the NAD complaint on the basis that "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza" was "mere puff" and would not be understood to be a scientifically verifiable claim.
Alternatively they argued that even if it was not mere puff, they could verify the phrase. They pointed in particular to taste tests and to the fact that they made their tomato topping straight from the tomato whilst Pizza Hut used tomato paste. The NAD accepted Papa’s arguments and rejected the Pizza Hut complaint, but Pizza Hut were not through, and commenced litigation. The outcome of the latest round in the case is a victory for Pizza Hut and an injunction banning unqualified use of "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza." That injunction has been suspended, however, following lodgment of an appeal by Papa John.
Why this matters:
It is not known whether Papa John plan to use the controversial strapline in the UK, but would the ASA or a UK court take a benign view? As a matter of law, we are dubious as to whether the new comparative advertising regulations would bite. This is because they only apply to advertising which expressly or by implication identifies a competitor. As there are so many providers of carry out pizza services in the UK, could "Better ingredients. Better Pizza" impliedly identify any particular competitor? It seems unlikely, but then again nobody yet knows how "by implication identifies a competitor" is going to be interpreted and applied in the UK.
In any event "mere puff" and substantiation seem strong arguments for Papa John here as in the US, so let’s see if Papa John take a robust view and stick to their strapline on this side of the pond!