Papa John's Orders A Web Pizza With Extra Webcam

We've recently been seeing a lot of retailers touting new Web functionality that turns out to be visually-arresting Flash animations but little actual E-Commerce functionality improvements. Lands' End's recent swimsuit site rolled out earlier this month was a classic example. They all tend to remind me of that wonderful IBM commercial from several years ago, where the programmer is showing flaming and spinning logos and the exec wants inventory and billing synchronization, which the programmer can't do.

But the rollout Tuesday (May 26) from the Papa Johns global chain of 3,404 pizzerias takes it one step farther. Yes, it's generally just glitz and icing, but it integrates webcams that will literally interact with pizza boxes. Say what you will, but from an E-Commerce perspective, that's different.

The campaign's plot is simple. Weird, but simple. Consumers go to a Papa John site and grab an icon of the "1972 Z28 Camaro that founder John Schnatter sold 25 years ago to open his first restaurant," the chain said. As of Monday (June 1), consumers can use webcams to capture the image from a pizza box. Once selected, the consumer can then drive along a virtual road, being shown virtual billboards, which are discount coupons.

Other than the Webcam interaction, this sounds like it has the potential to alienate (annoy?) more consumers than it amuses. "If you want to give me a 40 percent off coupon, just give me the bloomin' coupon! Don't make me drive around a virtual road, like I'm an extra in a Roadrunner cartoon."

But the Webcam interaction is clever. Papa John's cites an estimate that 20 percent of Americans have webcams, a figure likely to sharply increase as "most newer laptops include a webcam as a standard feature." If you focus on the younger demographic that Papa John's focuses on, that percentage is likely much higher yet. Of course, a consumer that has a webcam isn't necessarily going to know how—or even want—to use it, which will also be a much higher figure for younger consumers.

But if the chain takes the next baby step and routinely changes the campaigns, some consumers might find it fun to scan the latest pizza box and see what the site does. To paraphrase the IBM commercial, it's a far cry from updating inventory or offering realtime price adjustments—or even factoring in GPS data to reveal precisely where consumers eat the pizzas—but at least it's a little more useful than a flaming logo.