Papa John's moves on from John Schnatter in new TV campaign

Papa John’s aims to reassure the public about its commitment to diversity with the release Tuesday of a new campaign that stars several store franchisees, rather than company founder and longtime marketing star John Schnatter.

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A new 60-second television spot, titled “Voices of Papa John’s,” features franchise owners and store employees from locations ranging from Tampa, Florida, to Moscow, Russia. The diverse group of employees discuss Papa John’s relationship with local communities, as well as their personal experiences working at the chain.

All 24 Papa John’s employees that appear in the campaign are volunteers, a company representative said. The campaign marks the embattled pizza chain’s first new creative work since Schnatter resigned as company chairman following revelations that he used a racial slur during a May conference call.

“For Papa John's, our commitment to diversity is rooted in our belief that having a Papa John's family that fully reflects and celebrates the global nature of our brand is the right way to do business,” the company said on the campaign’s website.

Schnatter, who founded Papa John’s and served for years as its CEO, was a fixture in the chain’s national pizza boxes, television campaigns and other marketing materials during his time with the company. Papa John’s is in the process of spending millions of dollars to scrub Schnatter’s image from restaurants and revamp its marketing efforts.

Schnatter apologized for his use of the slur, but said his words were taken out of context and accused a marketing firm of attempting to extort him to keep the story from going public.

The company founder has repeatedly criticized the Papa John’s board of directors’ handling of his dismissal. Papa John’s officials fired back by noting that the chain’s sales plunged after Schnatter’s use of the slur went public. The chain also enacted a “poison pill” provision to prevent Schnatter, who remains its largest shareholder, from acquiring a controlling stake.

Schnatter has two pending lawsuits against Papa John’s and launched a website, SavePapaJohns.com, to detail his ongoing effort to regain control of the company.