Pizza toppings are not a proper topic

By Troy Doetch

Some people hate the Democratic Party, others, the Republican. However, in a bipartisan agreement reminiscent of the Kony 2012 elephantine/asinine Venn diagram, everyone and their bubbe loathes the Pizza Party.

Not me.

In an attempt to be topical and/or ridicule the American electoral process, Pizza Hut designed a web-based ad campaign posing as a political party. It had all the right ingredients to go viral: It was topical in that politics is a topic; it was irreverent in that it nominated two medium pizzas, breadsticks and Stuffed Pizza Rollers as one presidential candidate; and it was going to give away a lifetime supply of pizza to anyone who would ask the political candidates, “Sausage or Pepperoni?” during Tuesday’s live Town Hall debate.

If you think this idea is repulsive, you’re in good company.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Twitter collectively slammed the idea, with users throwing around phrases like “hijacking a presidential debate for marketing.” Gawker published a piece under the self-explanatory headline, “Want Free Pizza Hut Pizza for Life? Just Make a Mockery of the American Democratic System on Live TV.” USA Today ran a story full of marketing consultants more or less calling the idea dumb. Slate’s Andrew McCarthy said the campaign was a sign that, “we’re officially a boxers-or-briefs question and a rose ceremony away from this race devolving into some sort of bizarre episode of The Bachelor.”

“Whenever you do something like that, it has the potential to backfire,” said Paul Palian, NIU Media and Public Relations director.

The situation reminded Palian of a PR disaster from last year, when Kenneth Cole compared the Arab Spring uprising to the public’s clamor over its spring collection. Neither company really thought through the implications of its ad.

“You just have to be really careful,” Palian said.

Pizza Hut spokesman Doug Terfehr released a statement Monday that (not because of the negative press or anything) they’re tinkering the contest ever so slightly by completely changing it to an online poll, in which one random participant will receive free pizza for life. But really, most of the feedback has been very positive, Terfehr said and wishfully thought.

So no one asked President Barack Obama or former Gov. Mitt Romney about their preferential pizza toppings. This is a shame because the question was a good one. While I concede that it’s not an important issue; often, strange questions, for which the questioned has not prepared, can be extremely revealing. That’s why Bank of America asks its applicants, “What animal are you?” and why Barbara Walters asked Katharine Hepburn, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”

It’s not just what you answer, but how you answer—if you even answer at all.

For instance, when Palian responded to my inquiries about Pizza Hut’s fail, he volunteered his answer to the notorious question: He’s voting pepperoni. Now, not only do I know what to order for the director if we ever go halves on a ’za, but I now know that he’s a very helpful guy despite his bad taste in pizza toppings.

Me, I’m a member of the sausage party.