How a piece of digital pizza that sold for 22 cents can be worth $9,000

Who: Pizza Hut, with Ogilvy Toronto.

What: “Non-fungible pizza,” which, while it sounds like a pizza with no mushrooms, is actually just virtual pizza created to capture some of the hype and media buzz about non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

When & Where: The pizza is being sold on the NFT marketplace Rarible. It started March 17, and each day at noon for eight days, one “non-fungible pizza” will go up for sale for about 22 cents.

You’ve said “non-fungible” a lot already: Yeah, we should start with explaining that. NFTs are digital objects (or “assets”) that can be owned and sold, but never duplicated because they exist on a blockchain. NFTs are usually bought and sold by collectors, using the cryptocurrency ethereum. Images, videos, music and even tweets can be converted into NFTs, but because they are one-of-a-kind or very limited and not-replicable, they have value with collectors.

How much value? A lot. NFTs have exploded in popularity (and pricing) in just a few weeks. A video clip of a LeBron James dunk sold for $208,000, while a piece of digital art by the artist Beeple sold for $6.6 million, and another one sold last week for $69.3 million.

Does this seem weird? Yes. But we’re talking about the internet, cryptocurrency and blockchain. What even is normal anymore?

Why make non-fungible pizza? The Pizza Hut team at Ogilvy saw this craze blowing up, wondered how the brand could get involved, and came up with a connection.

One of the brand principles for Pizza Hut is that people should be able to get great pizza anywhere, explained Meg Farquhar, the new executive CD at Ogilvy Toronto. Non-fungible pizza is a simple idea (albeit on a complicated platform) for a permanent piece of pizza in digital form.

“It’s for the people who love it, to be able to immortalize a bite of [Pizza Hut] pizza, which is kind of an ephemeral thing,” she said. “It’s such a cool concept, that perfect pan pizza forever idea.” The non-fungible pizza flavours are the same as those in a real world $10 Favourites promotion starting next week.

But it’s also undeniably about earned media created by all of the excitement about NFTs right now. “It is wanting to take advantage of a moment,” said Farquhar.

“I would say the average [Pizza Hut] consumer is not an NFT owner right now,” she said. But part of the hype is about the outrageous prices being paid for non-fungible tokens. Pizza Hut’s non-fungible pizza is about giving people an NFT for almost nothing. It’s about Pizza Hut providing “a really satisfying experience” at a very low price, she said.

How: The non-fungible pizza file itself—which Pizza Hut is calling a 1 Byte Favourite—is a simple 8-bit image of favourite Pizza Hut recipes. Other than the small fee to post to Rarible, it cost almost nothing to create. The Ogilvy creative team did it all themselves.

There will be eight, eight-bit slices in total (eight bits of data equals 1 byte) and they can be bought at Rarible using ethereum. Each 1 Byte Favourite sells for 0.0001 ethereum, roughly 22 cents Canadian. As proof of the growing popularity of NFTs, the owner of the first “Byte” of Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza, which sold Wednesday, is now asking nearly $9,000 for it.

The speed of a digital craze: NFTs really only started taking off last month. Ogilvy proposed the idea to the client early on March 5, pitched a few ideas early last week, and it went live on Wednesday. “Our copywriter overnight became an expert on NFTs,” said Farquhar. “It was pure hustle and muscle… We know that in the next week there are going to be so many of these stories coming out, so it was really ‘Let’s figure it out and do it. Let’s not overthink it, let’s not overproduce it.'”

And we quote: “We’re really excited to launch 1 Byte Favourites as an opportunity to give fans another way to get their hands on their favourite Pizza Hut recipes, even if it’s virtually. It’s a fun way to deliver our Favourites on an emerging platform where people can truly appreciate the perfect pan pizza forever.” —Daniel Meynen, CMO, Pizza Hut Canada

David Brown