A Slice of the ?Advertising Pie

Pizza boxes deliver the latest 
in media marketing opportunities

The moment a pizza delivery arrives is always a happy one. The smell of doughy crust, salty meat and all that gooey, melted cheese makes us drool in ways that would make Pavlov proud. What better time, then, to attract a new customer or two? Such were the thoughts of Richard Madras and Yasaman Yeganegi, founders of Vancouver-based Fresh Tracks Media Inc., pioneers in national pizza-box advertising. 

The idea began with a case study during their B.Com. program at McGill University, when the two were introduced to a practice that was common in Europe at the time. After graduating in 2005, the friends spent a year researching the market and found that Canada offered a unique opportunity: while 30 per cent of the country’s 9,000 pizza joints are owned by national chains promoting their own products, the other 70 per cent offered blank slates to prospective advertisers. Previous attempts to capitalize on the market had failed, due to difficulties involved with trying to strike a deal with individual pizzerias.

The aha moment came when Madras, Yeganegi and Golnaz Mindell, Yeganegi’s sister, discovered that one company was responsible for supplying blank boxes to the majority of Canada’s independent pizza parlours. Yeganegi recounts how after “a cold call, a lot of persistence and a year of meetings,” she and her partners negotiated an exclusive partnership with the Toronto company (which prefers to remain unnamed). Their clients: the independents, the mom-and-pop joints and the small chains. Their reach: approximately 4,500 pizzerias across Canada, distributing 17 million pizza boxes annually. 

The first of Fresh Tracks’ clients was the Food Network, which in 2006 contracted to have 75,000 pizza boxes imprinted with ads designed by Alliance Atlantis’s own agency or in-house team (this is the case for all of Fresh Tracks’ campaigns). The successful launch solidified Fresh Tracks’ exclusive relationship with the box distributor and led to contracts with Tag Body Spray (a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble Co.), Ziplocal, Lavalife Corp., Hewlett-Packard Development Co. LP, Shaw Cablesystems GP, Bell Canada and, most recently, Warner Home Video Canada.

Today most of Fresh Tracks’ operations remain based in Toronto, but Yeganegi and Mindell (who bought out Madras in 2008) moved back to their native Vancouver last year, for personal reasons. 

Byron Gaum, product manager at Warner Home Video Canada, clearly embraces the new medium in an era when traditional print advertising is suffering. Earlier this year, the company placed ads on 43,000 boxes that included a bar code consumers could scan to preview online video clips of recent DVD and Blu-ray releases. According to Gaum, pizza boxes provided a medium that was “original and innovative” and “added a whole new dimension to a static ad.” Not coincidentally, the Warner campaign launched before Super Bowl weekend and targeted males between 18 and 34.

In all of its campaigns, creative, client-based advertising is key. For Lavalife’s campaign, Fresh Tracks used its 30-centimetre box, the typical size used for a small or medium pizza and “what singles are most likely to order for themselves,” says Mindell. And for Shaw, which wanted to promote its Easy Move service in 2008, the pizza boxes targeted customers in the midst of moving season who have neither the energy nor the equipment to cook.

Each ad campaign runs for four to six weeks, and, while the minimum buy is $20,000, clients usually spend between $50,000 and $150,000 (the average buy is approximately $100,000). The company runs with no support staff and virtually no overhead; growth is limited only by the sales efforts of Yeganegi and Mindell. The duo sees hiring sales brokers as a potential next step. And while they have no immediate plans to sell the company, Fresh Tracks’ exclusive partnership with its distributor and the founders’ experience in this new medium add up to some substantial assets. Who wouldn’t want a slice of this pie?

– Rebecca Tay