Domino’s picks Duluth for pothole marketing scheme

Domino’s vows to pave potholes in Duluth, cementing a marketing coup. (PHOTO: screenshot from Domino’s commercial)

Tonight, the Duluth City Council is poised to accept $5,000 from Domino’s Pizza to repair some of the city’s legendary potholes.

You might have seen Domino’s “Paving for Pizza” nationwide television ad campaign that ran over the last several months. The premise is that potholes cause pizzas in the backseat of cars to go flying around the cabin. No one likes cheese stuck to the top of a pizza box, right? You want that delicious pizza in pristine condition when you open the box on your dining room table for your hungry family, right?

Well, the ad explains, Domino’s is here to help.

The ad campaign spurred a broader discussion wondering why we should count on pizza companies to pave our streets when the nation faces an extraordinary decline of its infrastructure. Duluth is a prime example. Sure, the Zenith City is an obvious place to win this “contest.” But that’s because the city faces hundreds of millions of dollars worth of repair projects that it can’t currently afford.

But even setting that aside, I’d add that we should really be having a conversation about marketing.

You recall the ad depicts a Domino’s crew paving over potholes. We see now that Domino’s really just cuts a check to a local government to fix the potholes. Five grand gets you plenty of pizza (especially at just $7.99 for a large!!), but it doesn’t fill that many potholes when you factor in materials, labor and equipment. Tim Forster at reported that Bartonville, Texas filled eight small potholes with its $5,000. Athens, Georgia, paid 12 workers for three hours to pave 150 square yards of battered street.

It’s true that Duluth’s pothole laden streets are deserving of attention. But that has nothing to do with pizza. In fact, you’d have to jump a curb to actually knock a pizza off your back seat. No, the real story here is that Domino’s has figured out how to exploit free media.

So, the pizza company spends several million dollars telling the country that it will pave streets. It then spends a tiny fraction of that money to goad local governments to pave tiny sections of road or fill potholes. Already, the Duluth media market has obliged with several TV stories, a newspaper story and corresponding social media shares. They’ll get the same when the council accepts the money. And again when the streets are paved. It’s a good scheme, to be sure, because it’s a small outlay for a ton of what they call “earned” media. They will easily sell enough pizza in just the Duluth market to call this a success.

In fact, the $5K will pay further dividends for Domino’s. In 2019, the legislature will likely approve a special sales tax to fund road repairs that Duluth voters approved more than a year ago. So when many, many more potholes are fixed, a not-insignificant number of people will associate the repairs with pizza, not with the taxpayer dollars that actually made it happen.



Words that describe this marketing campaign, America, and pizza all at the same time. And yet, I still love America. And pizza. I’m going to have pizza on Wednesday. You can’t stop me. I can’t stop myself. I’d ask for help, but I don’t want it.

I guess what I’m getting at is that at some point, we have to figure out how to resist these new forms of marketing. Because it’s evident that we aren’t resisting them now. In fact, I’m not resisting it either. Here I am talking about the pizza pavement. And delicious pizza. Pizza. Mmmm.

But our desire for pizza, and a company’s desire to sell us more pizza, cannot replace a strategy for our aging infrastructure. It seems stupid to have to say that, but I suppose someone should.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.