IDEA Conference 2010

Domino's Talks Radical Authenticity

CMO Discusses How a Huge Risk Reaped Big Rewards

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Crispin Porter & Bogusky's Tony Calcao presents the new Domino's campaign while Domino's chief marketing officer Russell Weiner looks on.
Crispin Porter & Bogusky's Tony Calcao presents the new Domino's campaign while Domino's chief marketing officer Russell Weiner looks on. Credit: Gary He

NEW YORK ( -- It was arguably one of the riskiest marketing campaigns of all time -- so how, exactly, did Domino's get its "Oh Yes We Did" campaign, which touted a revamp of pizza by admitting the previous version was terrible?

"We had to do something" because sales were so bad, said Russell Weiner, chief marketing officer, speaking at Ad Age's IDEA Conference today. "And we had the right people in the right situation and the right agency."

But perhaps the most interesting reason was that Mr. Weiner & Co. were pitching the campaign to a company CEO who, unbeknownst to anyone else, was leaving the company. In approving the campaign, he arguably put his legacy at stake. And President Patrick Doyle, who assumed the CEO post March 7, continued to support the effort once getting the nod.

Mr. Weiner presented the campaign at IDEA Conference with Tony Calcao, VP-group creative director at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, his agency.

In a series of ads, the pizza company admitted its old pizza sucked, introduced a new recipe by showing it to its staunchest critics. It continued the transparency theme by encouraging customers to alert Domino's when the pizzas they ordered were not up to par.

"New and improved" campaigns typically feel not only cliche but disingenuous, explained Mr. Weiner, and there were already 5 million hits on Google for the phrase new and improved. So we looked at what was going on in the news and culture at the moment and launched it under a new guise: radical transparency.

So far, the company has seen only positive results; most recently, its third-quarter same-store sales were up 11.7%.

Additionally, the "Show Us Your Pizza" campaign, in which Domino's asked customers to take their own photographs of the food to be used in ad campaigns, has resulted in 13,000 submissions. Domino's also responded in ads to customers whose photos showed a pizza that didn't arrive, well, photo-ready.

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Mr. Weiner said the ads in which Domino's chefs confronted their toughest critics at their front doors performed incredibly well in ad testing, scoring in the top 1% in Millward's Brown database. From a media-mix modeling standpoint, he said, "we found these two ads were so strong it made 100 [gross ratings points] act as though they were 500 GRPs."

Still, you can't imagine the sleepless nights and Alka-Selzer consumed when Crispin showed us a storyboard, said Mr. Weiner. "You're a 50-year-old pizza company with 5,000 stores out there, these guys first tell you to go on air and say your pizza sucks, and then go out there and show how crappy it's made," he said.

On stage, Mr. Weiner owned up to the fact when he was in college he used to try to "game" the delivery guy when Domino's had its 30-minutes-or-the-pizza's-free delivery policy in order to get a gratis pie. Today, with the radical-authenticity campaign, customers are doing the same. He said he's even gotten a $17 check and a note of apology.

"People are coming out of the woodwork saying, 'I'm so sorry in college I gamed the Domino's guy,'" he said.

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