Why Domino’s filled (3 of) America's pot holes!

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Background

Potholes. Not the most obvious source of creativity.

But despite being quite literally a big hole of nothing, more than a few corporations and brands have used the pothole as the basis for their marketing campaigns in recent years, albeit to varying degrees of success.

Now, pizza giant Domino’s has joined the pothole fray in the United States. But where others have failed to make a splash, Domino’s take on the tarmac terror became something of a viral smash.

The Big Idea

Domino’s introduced a campaign called ‘Paving For Pizzas’.

Simply put; it would provide grants to fix potholes in American towns to ensure that Domino’s pizzas could be delivered to customers in perfect condition.

“Bad roads shouldn’t happen to good pizza”, explained Domino’s, with potholes capable of causing “irreversible damage” to toppings. Serious stuff.

Now, ‘brand fixes potholes’ is by no means an original idea so I can’t give it top marks for creativity. A car insurer in South Africa did an identical idea a few years ago and even KFC filled in a few potholes back in 2010.

But even if it was aware of what had been done before, none of it deterred Domino’s, nor did it seem to hamper results.

What They Did

Front and centre of the Domino’s pizza stunt was an asphalt truck, a steamroller and a crew of workers seen filling in potholes in American suburbia. The newly filled potholes were finished with a branded ‘Oh Yes We Did’ tag.

Paving for Pizzas is another example of an advertising agency doing a PR idea, and it obviously came with an ad agency budget to play with. Indeed, no expense has been spared for this idea: there was a TV spot, digital content (including a GoPro inside a pizza box during delivery) and a campaign website where people can nominate their towns to receive a pothole grant.

And then there was the coverage – more on that below.

Review

Whether it was a matter of fortunate timing for a well-liked brand, a big budget, well-executed PR approach, the tongue-in-cheek reason behind the campaign, or the particular way the idea was activated (or all of the above) Domino’s take on potholes got a huge amount of coverage both in the USA and over here.

And if the brief from the client was to make a lot of noise about Domino’s commitment to delivering pizzas to customers in perfect condition, then it’s hard to argue that the project hasn’t been very effective.

Whether or not all of the extra stuff – the ad (and probably hefty media spend) the interactive microsite and so on – was needed is up for debate. The idea could have been done in a leaner way and potentially seen just as much coverage, but it has taken a through-the-line approach to crank up the volume and get as many people seeing and talking about Domino’s.

In Hindsight

Despite not being an original idea the execution was good – and Domino’s won’t care one bit about uniqueness as it surveys its coverage haul.

Does Domino’s really have a desire to fix America’s potholes? The fact that only a few dozen potholes have been repaired in three towns goes a long way to support the argument that it was really only in it for the publicity. But if fame was the name of the game (and I can only speculate on the brief) then does it really matter how many potholes get filled in?

In fact, Domino’s might have shown too much of its hand and invited cynicism by spelling out the limits of its commitment (funding for only 20 towns) and creating a website where everyone can see just how few potholes have been fixed.

Perhaps sometimes it’s better not to fill in all the holes.

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Matt Wilcock

Matt Wilcock

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