It's not unheard of for a small company to spend its entire advertising budget kicking around its biggest competitor. But Mr. Shoes Pizza Inc., in Rochester, N.Y., has taken that strategy to new heights in its battle with Domino's Pizza Inc.
The year-old company, which has four pizza stores, has assailed almost everything about Domino's. One theme in the campaign is pizza weight -- a large Domino's with everything on it weighs in at 3.45 pounds; a Mr. Shoes tips the scale at 6.92 pounds. One ad campaign even elicited a threatening letter from Domino's lawyers. They didn't want Mr. Shoes deriding its mushrooms or borrowing its soon-to-be trademarked slogan. Mr. Shoes responded with a press release that read, "My pizza is so large they are trying to make it illegal."
"We had to come up with a way to raise our gross from zero to respectable numbers in a short period of time," explains John Natalie, president and chief executive officer of Mr. Shoes.
But Mr. Shoes hasn't settled for spending just $100,000 of its own money. It has also found a way to take a bite out of the Domino's ad budget as well. In July, a Mr. Shoes ad asked consumers to tear out the Domino's ad from the Rochester Yellow Pages and redeem it for a $2 discount. About 4,000 consumers quickly became rip-out artists. "It is a little bit irreverent," says Bruce Younger, a partner with San Filipo & Younger Associates, the local ad agency that created the campaign. "The first place you look, if you're going to order a pizza, is the Yellow Pages." Mr. Shoes plans to repeat the ad when a new edition comes out.
Nataile's ambitions of unnerving the giant may be pie in the sky, though. "He has used our name in a nonslanderous way in each of his ads," says Brian Frye, owner of 12 Domino's stores in the area, who claims that sales have been increasing as a result.
Does it anger him to see a hole where Domino's ads used to be? "To tell you the truth," Frye says, "we feel bad for the small guys on the back of our ad who are getting torn out."