Pizza Hut political stunt may lead to more debate viewers

Krista Brooks

Topics for debate: education, the economy, health care … meat toppings on pizza?

Last week, Pizza Hut announced that they’d reward a brave soul who would ask the presidential candidates what their favorite toppings are at tonight’s debate.

The company was criticized for its unnecessary involvement in the political campaign, and making a mockery of the presidential candidates for the thought of wasting their time.

“Sausage or pepperoni?”

Pizza Hut had offered one free pizza per week for 30 years or a check for $15,600 to anyone who asked this simple question at the debate. The rules did not specify whether or not the contest winner had to receive an answer from the candidates.

The contest attracted several outlets: those willing to ask the candidates and those slamming the political stunt.

Comedy Central talk show host Stephen Colbert was amused by the situation. He laughed at how the prize of a pie a week could kill you within the 30 years of free pizza. Colbert asked his audience, “What could be more American than using our electoral process for product placement?”

Gawker website ran a headline that read, “Want Free Pizza Hut Pizza for Life? Just Make a Mockery of the American Democratic System on Live TV.” The New Jersey Star-Ledger referred to Pizza Hut as “knucklehead of the week.” The restaurant chain has now altered their contest to question their customers rather than President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. With just an email and zip code to enter, one lucky contestant who answers will be selected at random to win free pizza for life.

“The anticipation and buzz around this question proves that this debate should be taken to the people,” Pizza Hut executive Kurt Kane announced. “We’re no longer asking a few hundred attendees at the town hall presidential debate on Oct. 16 to pose the question, rather we’re bringing the question – Sausage or Pepperoni? – to millions of Americans.”

Food industries and politics just don’t mix. Chick-fil-A was recently given a national day from a politician who agreed with the owner’s political views but received negative feedback from customers who just don’t agree. Recently, Papa John’s pizza announced it would raise its prices if Obama’s health care reform law goes into full effect.

All in all, I respect Pizza Hut for creating a competition to encourage people to the watch the debate without choosing and promoting a certain candidate.

Still, the stunt was poorly executed, and the company could have gained support and sales had it gone another route. Through the competition, Pizza Hut may have encouraged many to watch the debate regardless of who is the target of the competition. The first debate between Romney and Obama earlier this month earned about 67.2 million viewers. The viewership should rise, and Pizza Hut may have gained some extra eyes with its ridiculous political stunt.

Krista Brooks is a sophomore journalism major and the assistant opinions editor for the Daily 49er.
 

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