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Is it a pizza ad or is it a fashion ad? You might not recognize Papa John in its latest campaign. Leaning on satirical humour and references to gen Z street collaboration culture, the ad enters the pizza joint into the streetwear sector, all while promoting its new Cheddar pizza range.

“Whenever we launch a fresh range of pizzas internationally we look for interesting cultural cues that can resonate with consumers across a wide range of markets,” explains Jo Blundell, vice-president, international marketing at Papa John’s, on the brand’s marked departure from previous work. 

“Insight told us that streetwear, fashion and music have strong universal appeal to our core gen Z audience,” she explains. This led them to play around with the idea of ‘cheddar’ being the hottest, freshest new ingredient dropping this summer. 

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek spoof on a fashion drop, which we think will really appeal to our customers,” Blundell adds. 

The push included the first work created by Atomic London, which features an instrumental ‘Cheddar’ track from hip hop artist B Zino. In the film, food content is juxtaposed with fashion shots of models interacting with the pizza. 

To make the drop authentic, as part of the campaign Papa John’s has created a limited-edition range of Cheddar-customized streetwear, which it dropped on Depop so “people can shop the Papa X Cheddar look as well as the pizzas”.

To do so, it took real Papa John’s clothing and delivery driver gear and worked with a fashion student to turn them into streetwear items. All profits are going to Global Street Bank. 

Fast food brands offering streetwear merch is becoming a bit of a trend. Just this week, as part of its collaboration with K-pop boyband BTS, McDonald’s released branded merch, while KFC Russia jumped on the ’80s bucket hat trend, collaborating with St Petersburg-based streetwear brand Mam Cupy to design a one-of-a-kind finger lickin’ hat. 

“Fashion is a huge area of gen Z popular culture, from the catwalks to the streets, so it’s not a surprise to see many brands looking to borrow from this world when launching new products to this audience,“ says Blundell on the growing trend. 

A global campaign that will run across over 20 countries, Blundell admits that the aims and objectives will look different by market. “We’d hope that with a distinctive creative idea and PR campaign we would succeed in capturing the attention of gen Z consumers, landing our taste credentials and increasing sales of our new Cheddar range across the world,” she insists. “It’s all about reinforcing Papa John’s core positioning of Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.”