Boston Pizza - Flatties and Drummies

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (SILVER)

Client Credits: Boston Pizza International
EVP Marketing: Steve Silverstone
VP Marketing: Joanne Forrester
Marketing Manager Digital: Ryan Ashton

Agency Credits: TAXI Toronto
Executive Creative Director: Darren Clarke
Senior Art Director: Niall Kelly
Art Director: Gint Bruveris
Senior Writer: Jono Holmes
Group Account Director: Edith Rosa
Account Manager: Emma Toth
Planning Director: Jeff Dack
Producer: Alina Prussky
Media Agency: PHD
PHD Client Service Director: Zoryana Loboyko
PHD Group Account Director: Scott Henderson
PHD Senior Digital Media Strategy: Barbara Glover
PHD Account Manager: Stephany Sousa

Crossover Notes:
Crossover Notes: All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2012 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 3. Core Equity versus Price & Promotion.
Crossover Note 6. Should the product be improved?
Crossover Note 7. Fighting for the Same High Ground.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):April–May 2011
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: April 2011
Base Period as a Benchmark: April–May 2010

a) Overall Assessment
When you’re called Boston Pizza, it’s understandable that chicken wings might not be your signature item. But to be competitive in the world of sports bars, a reputation for great wings is a must. [Crossover Note 7]

Leading into the 2010 NHL hockey playoffs Boston Pizza needed to address customer feedback on their wings: they were small, offered little variety in preparation, and had only a few flavours. [Crossover Note 6] Wings had been a pain point for the brand for years, and with one-third of Boston Pizza’s business in the sports bar, they needed better wings.

Each Boston Pizza restaurant is equipped with approximately 600 inches of TV screen and over 100 menu items. The beer choices are plentiful and, during game time, the atmosphere is electric. In fact, in rural communities across Canada, the local Boston Pizza is the place to watch the big game. But Boston Pizza’s Famous Wings were not living up to their surroundings.

Knowing this, the operations teams and corporate chef worked with suppliers to find a better product and change the recipes across 345 restaurants.

Boston Pizza has always had loyal customers but sales of wings had declined and, at the time of the brief, had flattened. A correction was required.

Several direct competitors in the family/sports bar casual dining category serve wings (Jack Astor’s, Casey’s, Kelsey’s, Montana’s, etc.), but we needed to learn from those who do wings best. We shifted concentration to wing restaurants like Wild Wing, Duff’s Famous Wings, WingStreet, and St. Louis Bar and Grill. In doing this, we noticed that share of voice and awareness of each brand’s wing offering was minimal. The competition communicated their offers in menus, direct mail pieces, and websites. Few used mass channels, and those who did simply littered the airwaves with obnoxious offers. Like used car salesmen, they yelled from the rooftop about their best deals and special promotions. Boston Pizza had an opportunity to change the landscape by taking a different approach, one that added to the brand rather than eroding the margin. [Crossover Note 3]

b) Resulting Business Objectives
1. Get Boston Pizza on the radar as a destination for wings.
2. Increase wings sales by 50% during the NHL playoffs (April–June 2011).
3. Increase social media presence and traffic to Boston Pizza’s social platforms.

c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area
National(Canada), excluding Quebec

a) Analysis and Insight
We started by taking a look at how the competition sold themselves and found a few key insights that shaped the core strategy:

#1. Wing Night – Every brand has one. They discount their wings, making them half off, 25¢ a wing, or all you can eat. A wing lover could easily go from restaurant to restaurant “kicking tires” looking for the best wing deal, but what do cheap prices say about the wings? That they’re cheap. And does that wing lover have any affinity for the brand they’re eating? Probably not.

#2. Dragon’s Breath, She’s a Hottie, Angels on the Moon – Wing brands have unique names. Some even boasted over 100 different sauces and flavours. Using Boston Pizza as a benchmark, we knew that the vast majority of wings sold are either mild, medium, or hot. We concluded that more doesn’t necessarily equal better. Just because you have a wacky name, doesn’t mean the wing can deliver for the customer or the bottom line.

#3. Award-Winning Wings – Every brand has won a truckload of trophies for their “world class” wings. It seemed like this was an industry that congratulated itself more than advertising. But how was this possible? Who was the governing body? What were these wings being judged on? And by whom? This insight would serve to create a campaign that would turn the wing world on its head.

b) Communication Strategy
We needed to talk to our current customer, since he was the one who had the issue with our wings. He’s the Dad who comes in with his family on a weekday and is back with his buddies for a pint on Saturday night. Our guy already had his spot for wings – and it wasn’t Boston Pizza. We knew our guy was not loyal to his spot; he only went there for their deal, because he either didn’t know Boston Pizza had wings or he had tried the wings and didn’t like them. Knowing this, we set out to position Boston Pizza as the place for wings, the place our guy thought of when his buddies asked, “Where should we go for wings tonight?”

Timing is everything.

Our target likes sports – so the NHL playoffs were the perfect environment to communicate our message. We knew sports bar traffic would be high and wanted to piggyback on a time when we were guaranteed a captive audience. This was critical to our message, as hockey fans were not only tuning into multiple games each week, they were making decisions about where to watch the games as well. To get the greatest impact, we needed to ensure our message was highly visible. We also knew social media was important to our audience, particularly when they were using it to discuss team stats, give their two cents on a referee’s call, or dis a friend for betting on the losing team.

Wing appreciation was our challenge, but it was also our solution.

The chicken wing is a simple poultry item to the layperson, when in fact it is a complex and intricate food. You’ve got the drumstick (drummy) or the wing (flatty), both of which can be deep-fried, battered, baked (or all three), and seasoned or sauced (or both). You can eat them with your fingers or a knife and fork; all in one big bite or several smaller bites. There are hundreds of combinations to be discussed and debated.

To put an end to the ridiculous “best wings in town” competition among wings restaurants, we created the fictitious Flatties & Drummies Professional Wing Critics Association (PWCA), a team of highly trained wing aficionados who observe the chicken wing category, weigh in with feedback, and critique each wing product. Their mission: to eat, enjoy, and evaluate all newcomers in the wings category.

a) Media Used
> an eight-week TV buy;
> in-store POS;
> a personalized wings menu;
> Facebook dominations;
> online banners (two tactical executions driving to Facebook);
> online pre-roll;
> Xbox media;
> YouTube presence;
> a microsite,

b) Creative Discussion
The one true chicken wing authority was introduced on TV in the form of Carl Carlson, President of the Flatties & Drummies Association, a group dedicated to the appreciation of great wings. Carl was invited by Boston Pizza to critique their new wings. He reviewed the wings from “Nib” to “Nub” using official wing cartography and analysis techniques only taught by the PWCA.

Communication continued in-store and online, where Flatties & Drummies announced that Boston Pizza had won the coveted 2011 Crystal Wingy Award for Best New Wing, the most prestigious honour Flatties & Drummies awards.

Consumers meet Carl as he is about to critique Boston Pizza’s new chicken wings. The mood is serious, and the setting is formal, as he is about to educate viewers on the intricacies of the wing. After all, critiquing wings should not be taken lightly!

Please see exhibit #1: TV :30 Flatties & Drummies

The 15-second TV and digital pre-roll spots focused on the cartography of the wing. In “Nib Nub,” Carl explains the difference between the Nib and the Nub of a drummy. And in “Leroy,” Carl praises the Bouchlette of Boston Pizza’s new Salt & Pepper wing, while explaining how the term “Bouchlette” was coined.

Nib Nub :15 Leroy :15
Please see exhibit #2: TV/Pre-roll :15 Nib Nub Please see exhibit #3: TV/Pre-roll :15 Leroy

Digital (Banners, Facebook, YouTube, Microsite):
The digital component of the campaign was educational and aimed to teach customers about Flatties & Drummies and provide them with additional content that brought the Professional Wing Critics Association to life.

It was online (and in-store) where customers found out that Flatties & Drummies had honoured Boston Pizza with the Crystal Wingy Award for Best New Wing. Communication and creative execution provided context to this award and the background on how it was won.

Two sets of banners were launched. One encouraged web surfers to learn about the anatomy of the chicken wing by placing their mouse over the banner ad to reveal the name of that particular region of the wing. The second banner celebrated Boston Pizza’s win of the Crystal Wingy and offered downloadable commemorative wing skins to customers so they could participate in the celebration.

Banner #1: Wing Demo Banner #2: Wing Skin Me
Please see exhibit #4: Wing Demo banner Please see exhibit #5: Wing Skin Me banner

Xbox presence was also part of the digital media plan. Within the Xbox console, gamers could watch the 15-second “Nib Nub” TV spot before or after playing a game.

Please see exhibit #6: Xbox Video :15 Nib Nub

Two Facebook tabs were developed and launched on Boston Pizza’s national Facebook page. The first tab offered downloadable wing skins for mobile devices, desktops, and screen savers, as well as Facebook profile pictures. This tab also contained “Tips from Carl” videos, which were the 15-second “Nib Nub” and “Leroy” spots. Additionally, there was a section dedicated to the Crystal Wingy Awards, noting all accolades Boston Pizza had received from Flatties & Drummies.

Please see exhibit #7: “Our Wings” tab

The second Facebook tab was a contest tab where we asked customers if they preferred Flatties or Drummies and to vote for their favourite. Fans of Boston Pizza’s national Facebook page could vote daily and see actual results tabulated on-screen in the form of a live poll. Each week, Boston Pizza would pull one name from the pool of contest participants and give them a $100 Boston Pizza gift card.

Please see exhibit #8: “Wing Contest” tab

A microsite was created for Flatties & Drummies at The site acted as the Professional Wing Critics Association (PWCA) corporate website, highlighting what the PWCA is about, how it was founded, the full cartography of the chicken wing, explanation of the Crystal Wingy Awards, and a list of 2011 winners and categories.

Please see exhibit #9: campaign website

YouTube was also used to increase communication of Boston Pizza’s new wings. Boston Pizza proudly posted Carl’s critique of their wings on their corporate YouTube page.

Please see exhibit #10:

A POS kit was delivered to restaurants. The kit included 10 elements, along with a “Professional Wing Guide” written by Flatties & Drummies. In-store communication highlighted actual quotes from Flatties & Drummies critics and illustrated beauty shots of the wings.

Please see exhibit #11: In-store elements Please see exhibit #12: Wings Guide Book

c) Media Discussion
The campaign consisted of an eight-week TV buy, running from April to June 2011, with a heavy focus on NHL playoff hockey. The TV was accompanied by in-store POS; a personalized wings menu; Facebook dominations (including downloadable wing skins, videos, and a contest asking participants if they prefer Flatties or Drummies); online banners (two tactical executions driving to Facebook); online pre-roll; Xbox media; YouTube presence; and a dedicated microsite,
The campaign included TV, Xbox, and digital media support.

Please see exhibit #13: Media Blocking Chart

a) Sales/Share Results
The first indication of success came early on when, after only three weeks in market, the Flatties & Drummies TV campaign reached a 66% ad breakthrough rating [Footnote 1]. As for sales, Boston Pizza’s wings soon became the fastest selling menu item in their 47-year history -- up 160% as against an objective of +50%.

Please see exhibit #14: National Order Growth %

And in many ways the most important metric: We ran out of wings!

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

Footnote 1:HotSpex Quantitative Ad Testing Study. June 6, 2011

a) General Discussion
As opposed to the immediate sales in-restaurant, our success in social media was an interesting indicator of how effective the Flatties & Drummies campaign was.

They really “Like” us.

All online media drove to Facebook, where Boston Pizza’s national Facebook page garnered 14,649 new Facebook fans, an increase of 585% over the previous three months. Customer feedback on posts increased 218% over the previous three months. Fans were finding our content relevant, thought provoking, and even inspiring.

Before we knew it, customers were mimicking the Flatties & Drummies TV spot, writing about us on blog sites and using “knock me down and call me Susan” in everyday conversation.

Please see exhibit #15: screen grabs

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels: Media spend was on par for the NHL playoffs timeframe and was consistent with the amount spent last year.

Pricing: Wing menu pricing was not changed, discounted, or increased. Boston Pizza was competing with the
all-you-can-eat and half-price wing nights. Boston Pizza was able to stand out by communicating a non-offer message and, more importantly, they didn’t need a price discount to compete.

Distribution Changes: There were no distribution changes made at the time of the campaign. Each franchise operated under the same marketing plan and execution schematic. Geographic coverage remained national in scope, excluding Quebec.

Unusual Promotional Activity: n/a

Other Potential Causes: n/a