Ex-Papa John's CEO John Schnatter praises ProActive, slams other firms on podcast

The ousted Papa John's executive appeared on the H3 podcast on Monday and did not hold back about the PR advice he's received.

Image via @h3h3productions Twitter page. (L-R) Hila Klein, John Schnatter, Ethan Klein.
Image via @h3h3productions Twitter page. (L-R) Hila Klein, John Schnatter, Ethan Klein.

LOUISVILLE, KY: Ousted Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter said on Ethan and Hila Klein’s H3 Podcast on YouTube that he is "on the offensive" thanks to agency ProActive Communications. 

Schnatter added that the position he is in is "night and day" from seven months ago because of the firm’s help. 

"The agency I have today, ProActive, has turned it around for sure," said Schnatter. "The agency we used in Los Angeles, we used them twice, and it hasn’t been good for me. ProActive has been very good."

Schnatter, who founded Papa John’s, resigned as chairman in July 2018 when it came to light that he used a racial slur during a "diversity media training" exercise with former creative AOR Laundry Service that May. 

Former PR AOR Olson Engage resigned its account with the pizza chain after Schnatter’s comments emerged. 

After his resignation, Schnatter hired Sitrick and Company, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, and employed the firm for more than a year. Sitrick and Company also represented Schnatter in late 2012, according to Fortune, after he commented negatively about the Affordable Care Act before that year’s presidential election. 

However, Michael Sitrick, chairman and CEO of the eponymous firm, said he does not think Schnatter was referring to his agency. Sitrick was retained by Schnatter’s law firm and worked with him from July 2018 to October 2019.  

"This is the first I’ve heard if he was unhappy with us," said Sitrick. 

Sitrick noted that Schnatter has worked with other PR agencies, such as FleishmanHillard, which collaborated with Papa John’s before the chain brought its communications work in-house in mid-2013, well before its split with Schnatter.

Mark Serrano, founder and president of ProActive Communications, declined to comment, saying via email, "I do not comment on our client work."  

Schnatter was forthcoming during the two-hour podcast about the advice ProActive gave him, including that it told him to start an Instagram account last November. 

"I said, ‘I will give it a try, but if it turns negative and nasty, I want nothing to do with it,’ but it’s been cool," said Schnatter.

Schnatter added that because the Kleins are fans of Papa John’s pizza, he felt "somewhat safe" being interviewed on the podcast.

"This is the most genuine way for you to get your message out," said Ethan Klein on the podcast, adding that Schnatter’s appearance was a "great step" for the businessman. 

"To go through this is a fascinating experience; it’s a learning experience and it is educational," said Schnatter, on the episode. "I just wish it wasn’t me going through it."

Schnatter also...

  • Clarified that he didn’t "eat" more than 40 pizzas in 30 days; he inspected them 

  • Revealed his friends and family do indeed call him "papa"

  • Taste-tested Papa John’s pizza

  • Explained that the chain’s board and leadership are "conservative" and that social media platforms "scared them." "They kept me away from that avenue," he said

  • Said he doesn’t want to be CEO again or go back on the board

  • Recalled what it was like to be literally erased from Papa John’s website 

  • Once again claimed that he has a recording of the infamous call and that it will exonerate him

After posting the interview on YouTube, Ethan Klein tweeted that the platform demonetized the video and removed it from trending. 

Here is the full video:

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