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Domino's self-flagellating ad strategy

"The admission by Domino's of its own awfulness may be the most extreme form yet of the mea culpa ad, a kind of subgenre in which a company publicly confesses its defects and mistakes and vows to do better," writes Paul Farhi. "Such ads make their sell only after they've hammered the advertiser itself." Or, as Stephen Colbert put it:

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Is this really such a bad idea, though? Anyone who eats Domino's and likes it isn't going to revise their opinion off of these ads. And the weirdness of the ad campaign has meant that lots of people now know that Domino's has a new pizza recipe. I've always hated the company's pizza and I've no plans to try their new pie. But I have to admit I'm curious ...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 13, 2010; 9:02 AM ET
Categories:  Food  
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This is a marketing campaign destined to be as successful as New Coke.

An interesting strategy. Best of luck to them with that.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 13, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

For the love of Pete, how can you be curious?

Posted by: wcwhiner | January 13, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I miss regular access to really good pizza living in Santa Monica now. Back in Chicago, you take for granted living in a city with access to really awesome pizza, same as NY.

I've heard people comment it has to do with the water, which seems odd, but perhaps. As for Domino's if you're going for fast food pizza the Pizza Hut is far better, at least this is the case in this area.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | January 13, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Living about two blocks from an awesome independent pizza shop I'm a bit spoiled, but I really don't understand the pizza delivery business these days. IMHO there are any number of frozen pizzas in my supermarket that are much better than Dominoes or Pizza Hut, and the supermarket pizza is much cheaper.

Posted by: AuthorEditor | January 13, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I think the previous Domino's was the worst "pizza" ever crafted by man or woman. But I'll go out on a limb and predict this campaign will be a catastrophe. It's insulting the large crowd of people who inexplicably loved and were loyal to that stuff -- and, at least where other options exist, it won't gain many repeat customers amongst the people who hated it.

(P.S.: If you're ever in the New York metropolitan area, try Umberto's in New Hyde Park.)

Posted by: bcamarda2 | January 13, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

We actually tried it last week. We'd had Domino's previously only when it was at someone else's event, and thought it was terrible (but cheap!). The new pizza is much improved, and their ham, pineapple and barbecue was actually quite tasty. I say, good for them. Maybe a bit harsh on the self-flagellating, but it got us to try it.

Posted by: gjmanning | January 13, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Here's some anecdata for you. My husband and 2/3 of my kids hate Dominoes pizza and so we never bring it into the house. My seven-year old son has been seeing these ads. On Wednesday of last week he started asking me if we could buy Dominoes on Saturday because, in his words, "they fixed all their problems". We love the kid so we got Dominoes on Saturday. I asked the manager of the place how he feels about the ads. He claimed not to know what I was talking about. We agreed that the ads work though b/c I was standing in his store giving him money I would never have otherwise given him. We didn't notice an improvement in the pizza though and the seven-year old hated the Cinnastix (TM) so we won't be going back.

Posted by: eRobin1 | January 13, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

You should try it, Ezra. While the sauce is no different (but Domino's never had much sauce to begin with), the cheese is a little better, and the crust is MUCH better.

Posted by: guardsmanbass | January 13, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

bcamarda2: If you think Dominoes had the worst pizza ever crafted by man, then you have never eaten at Pizza Inn. At least, not back in the mid 80s. Dominoes old pizza was like having an angel give birth in your mouth, compared to mid-80s Pizza Inn.

I loved Shakey's Pizza back in the late 70s, when they had the player piano and a live dixieland band and would show old Laurel and Hardy movies with a real film projector . . . and, of course, what would a 70s pizza parlor have been without the constant haze of smoke. Those were the days. I'm not sure if the pizza was that great, but those place had atmosphere.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 13, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse


True, I haven't. Something to keep in mind when I forget things could always be worse! Thanks for that!

Posted by: bcamarda2 | January 13, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

As a Hill staffer on a limited budget, I gave Dominoes another shot after seeing this commercial. I couldn't remember the last time I had ordered Dominoes for delivery. Not only was the pizza halfway decent but it took them only 16 minutes to deliver it. It was hot, the crust was vastly improved, and the toppings were on par with other delivery pizza companies. I love gourmet, independent pizza joints as much as the next person, but Dominoes could widen its niche vis a vis Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's, etc. with this new campaign, at least in the short-term.

Posted by: YoungDem86 | January 13, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

The comments here show ignorance and bias and preconceived notions about this company that prevent you from realizing that sales are up nationwide and the product is truly different. AND much better tasting. CITI rated DPZ a buy from hold. There you go.

But what can one possible expect from Liberal, self entitled, sissy-type, crabby and whiny new yorkers...? Face it, i'm right. Stephen Markovich

Posted by: AynRand7 | January 13, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

CITI rated DPZ a buy from hold. There you go.

Hey - my comment wasn't based on preconceived notions. It was based on a remarkable susceptibility to television advertising and a compassion for the alleged Dominoes employees who participated in the public self-criticism. Just thinking about the guy with his head in his hands might force me back to choke down some more truly different pizza product. But no more CinnaStix (TM). I draw the line when even the seven-year old finds something wrong with sugar-covered dough stix (TM) that come with dipping goo.

Posted by: eRobin1 | January 13, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

As an avid, devoted reader of your blog, I am somewhat ashamed that this is the first time that I am commenting. Punchline: The new Dominoes pizza is actually pretty darn good as far as franchise pizza goes. I would easily choose it over pizza hut, and perhaps even papa johns, depending on my mood. Thank you. :)

Posted by: ravivar | January 13, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

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