How Domino's broke new ground with a tell-all ad campaign

Restaurant Rewind: Few other chains have dared be as forthcoming about product quality as the pizza chain was. Now it's taking the opposite track. How's that likely to go?

Domino’s is tweaking its ad strategy to tout the quality of its food—a complete 180 from the ground-breaking campaign it ran 16 years ago in what proved a seminal move by the pizza giant. Back then, it acknowledged that its pies were abominable; the ads spotlighted customers who asserted the pizza was the worst they had ever tasted, and they disparaged the product as little better than cardboard smeared with ketchup. After detailing how god-awful the pizza had been for 50 years, the ads went on to herald a revision for the ages.

CNN said it might have been the weirdest TV ad in history. But it worked. The campaign was a turning point for Domino’s, leading to its emergence as the nation’s largest pizza chain.

Now the brand is taking the reverse tack. Will it work? It’s hard to say, because there have been so few parallels in the industry’s past, but there were a few that provide a rough comparison. Like the time KFC changed its name to FKC in exasperation over an operational challenge.

Get a sense of how bad attributes can become good marketing points by listening to this week’s episode of Restaurant Rewind.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Saladworks-parent WOWorks is shopping for new brands to buy

The platform company is almost finished assimilating its existing six brands. Now it's time to add to the family, said CEO Kelly Roddy.


2 more reminders that the restaurant business is risky

The Bottom Line: Franchising is no less risky than opening your own restaurant. Just ask former NFL player David Tyree and the former president of McDonald's Mexico.


There's plenty happening at the high end of the pricing barbell, too

Reality Check: Decadent meal choices are also proliferating, for a lot more than $5.


More from our partners