Pizza Pizza serves up Net radio

Now you can order some Shakira along with your pepperoni double-cheese. Toronto-based chain Pizza Pizza has unleashed a new Web site, 'Hot & Fresh Radio,' where youth and young-minded adults alike can tune into six different Internet radio channels, encompassing genres from 'hot urban' to 'club.'

Now you can order some Shakira along with your pepperoni double-cheese. Toronto-based chain Pizza Pizza has unleashed a new Web site, ‘Hot & Fresh Radio,’ where youth and young-minded adults alike can tune into six different Internet radio channels, encompassing genres from ‘hot urban’ to ‘club.’

‘We’re hoping kids will hang out on our Web site, and then it will be the talk of the town,’ says Pat Finelli, VP, marketing at Pizza Pizza, who says the program cost ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ to put into effect. But Finelli also realizes it’s not a build-it-and-they’ll-come scenario, which is why the site is central to a new Ontario-based promotion that also has advertising support.

‘Student’s Rule’ kicked off in mid-October and invites teens to enter a contest to be crowned the Best DJ, Rock Star or MC. The submissions will be showcased online, and browsers will be the judges; contestants can campaign for votes by sending ‘vote for me’ virtual e-mails to pals or picking up ‘nominate me’ rave cards in-store.

Finelli is hoping this interactive challenge will steer consumers to the site more often and also encourage them to stay longer. ‘Kids will go there, and tell their friends ‘listen to my rap.’ Every kid wants to be famous.’

The brainchild of Toronto-based Internet broadcaster Theiceberg.com and the retailer’s media agency Media Dimensions, Hot & Fresh Radio will also enable Pizza Pizza to build an e-mail database, which will then be used to announce future contests and special price offers. Finelli says messaging will occur on a monthly basis. ‘We’re going after kids because, while we grew up with the 967 jingle, we need to get the next generation and keep making them love us.’

Student’s Rule, as well as Hot & Fresh Radio, is being endorsed on radio and via P-O-P produced by the retailer’s in-house creative team. As well, brief brand messages will be broadcast on the Hot & Fresh Radio stations, while Internet ads will pop up on theiceberg.com.

Ted Boyd, president of theiceberg.com, says the site is the perfect recipe for Pizza Pizza because Internet radio fits nicely with its demographic. ‘It offers the retailer a chance to speak and interact directly with the consumer,’ he says, adding that his broadcast service has quintupled its audience in Canada within the last year – it has 427,000 unique Canadian registered listeners – and that average listening times have increased from 2.5 hours to four hours a day.

Certainly it seems that more teens are moving away from the FM dial in favour of the Net. Statistics Canada recently reported that in fall 2001, teens spent only 4.7 hours on average per week listening to the airwaves, compared to 16.1 hours for adults. Meanwhile in fall 2000, media research firm BBM surveyed 3,000 Canadians aged 12-plus about Internet radio; 63% of those under 25 said they would ‘frequently’ or ‘sometimes’ visit a radio station Web site to find titles and artists of songs.

Approaching kids where they flock, plus topping it off with an interactive contest, will help build customer loyalty for Pizza Pizza, says Boyd. ‘If a company is interacting with you by uploading content on the Web, allowing you to send cards to friends, and tying in with that in-store, then that keeps you engaged on a level that begins to build loyalty in new and interesting ways.’ Boyd won’t give specific site traffic numbers, but he reports that so far everyone is pleased with the results.

Fred Masciarelli, media director at Media Dimensions in Toronto, points out another benefit of using Internet radio in marketing: it gives Pizza Pizza the ability to control its own promotional activity since it owns the medium. Plus, he adds, there is a range of genres, which means the site is likely to appeal to a broad group. ‘The teen component is tribal in terms of preferences,’ while a radio station is only specific to one target.

But the mass consumer who buys Pizza Pizza may not be the same person who plugs into Web broadcasting, points out Greg Skinner, a Toronto-based independent consumer strategist. ‘The people listening to Internet radio aren’t average – it’s easier for ‘average people’ to turn on the radio or push play on their disc players than it is to log on – yet it’s the mainstream consumer[s] who are going to make up the bulk of [Pizza Pizza's] sales.’

Furthermore, the ‘za is only available in Ontario, while Internet radio fans come from geographically diverse areas, since the benefit of the medium is that music enthusiasts can find tunes they wouldn’t normally have access to on their local airwaves – like off-shore artists or pre-released content.

In addition, Skinner believes Pizza Pizza should tone down its contests; they are too much work for teens. ‘They are also heavily skewed towards those who have an interest in song submissions or really want to be DJs – both of which are likely just a sliver of the masses.’

Instead, he suggests sticking with simple giveaways, plus adding more comprehensive information, like news and trivia, to ‘encourage very necessary return visits. Then keep hammering them with the brand message and encourage sales.’

Despite the recommended changes, Skinner says the upsides to online radio may still outweigh any downsides. ‘Here you have a truly integrated media platform – so you can do contests, advertise both in audio and visually, and provide the core content of music to keep people happy, not to mention [do] huge in-store support that gets in everyone’s face,’ he says. ‘And of course there’s the other giant advantage of being able to completely eliminate any competitive marketing which might otherwise exist – your brand becomes the star.’

And he gives the retailer full credit for its ‘ballsy’ strategy. ‘So many agencies and companies talk about pushing new media and alternative messaging, but really they’re just talking out of their asses. Everyone sticks to radio, TV and print, trying to be edgy within those formats, but there’s very little risk involved.’