If I asked you to make a pizza commercial, it would be safe to assume I’d see a lot of the same thing. Most of you would have some form of hot steaming pizza fresh out of the oven, loads of pepperoni and of course the ever-iconic, sexy cheese pull. It’s what we know, it’s what we’ve been told to accept is a good pizza and to be honest, it is damn good.
Pizza ads and commercials tend to highlight three specific kinds of pizzas: pepperoni, pepperoni and mushroom, or pepperoni, mushroom, green pepper, onion, and black olive. You ever find a pizza ad pop up on your timeline? It has pepperoni.
You drive past any banner adds for Little Caesars, Domino’s, and Pizza Hut? There’s pepperoni. If you Google any pizza commercial from the 1980s onwards, you’ll discover an endless supply of pepperoni and pepperoni-based variants. The question is, why?
Consumer tastes and marketing tactics are constantly in flux, but how has the pepperoni pizza managed to buck the trend and stay the same for so many years? According to the heads of the industry, it’s a simple numbers game.
Ed Gleich, the senior vice president of global marketing at Little Caesars, explains: “Data shows that among meats/proteins, pepperoni is by far the most popular, followed by sausage and now bacon. The ingredients shown (in our ads) are heavily driven by what our customers love. Pepperoni is often the go-to because it is so popular with customers.”
Back in 2013, Business Insider published an infographic showing that pepperoni was by far the most ordered topping in America, at 36 percent. Sausage came in a distant second with 14 percent. A few months ago, data made available by delivery app Slice showed that in most states, the preferred pizza topping remains pepperoni.
On top of being popular with diners, pepperoni is relatively photogenic. “Some food just doesn’t photograph well,” says Rob Douglas, a 20-year advertizing veteran. “If you were to put sausage on top of pizza it may look like poop.”Harsh at its face, but when you think about it, it’s kind of true. There’s something oddly calming about the stark red on the inviting yellow.
“Pepperoni has a lot going for it,” says Thomas DeGrezia, co-owner of Sofia Pizza Shoppe in New York City. “Its color and ability to maintain its structure (throughout the cooking process), unlike veggies or most other meats, make it visually appealing against a backdrop of mozzarella. Places like ours who do the charred-edge ‘roni ‘cups’ add to the visual enticement because you can actually see the different textures at work on the pie.”
The pepperoni-topped pizza serving slice has basically become a universal sort of shorthand for conveying pizza. It’s why your pizza emojis are pepperoni slices: everyone knows what you’re talking about when you post that cone with small red circles in it.
For those of you who aren’t so into meat, mushrooms follow the same marketing rules. A pizza place will do well to have a commercial presenting the pepperoni-mushroom combo indicate to both meat eaters and vegetarian customers that their desired toppings are available.
The bottom line? You want something delicious and reliable. Even with the evolution of pizza offering up tasty innovations, we take comfort in the safety of something that looks the same for the better part of a couple hundred years. Pepperoni pizza commercials aren’t changing anytime soon.