Domino’s brings back the 1980s-era Noid

The villain who first tried to stop pizza deliveries in 1986 is back in ads, a video game and merch

Published On
Apr 26, 2021

Editor's Pick

The Noid is back. And it’s gotten a makeover.

Domino’s Pizza has brought back its red-suited, long-eared villain from the late 80s in a campaign that hypes its new driverless pizza delivery.

In a nostalgia-meets-the-future approach, the Noid is returning to TV ads. And that's not the end of it. The creature will also be featured in the "Crash Bandicoot: On the Run" mobile game. Noid t-shirts and tumblers are for sale on Amazon, and GIPHY has Noid GIFs. In other words, the Noid is once again going to be hard to avoid.

Domino’s worked for more than a year on the Noid's return before shooting the character's first full commercial in decades. The chain decided to “tone the insanity down a little bit,” says Kate Trumbull, Domino’s VP of advertising. After all of that research, can Trumbull actually confirm what, exactly, is the Noid? It's a “genderless alien,” she says.

The updated Noid pays homage to the original, though with some intentional changes meant to allow “a little more humanity and allow more emotion to come through,” says Trumbull. Yes, even creepy brand mascots are part of the marketing industry's "humanity" obsession.

The Noid, for the uninitiated, was a character Domino’s introduced in 1986 in spots from agency Group 243. With its floppy ears and red suit with an “N” on the belly, the Noid was determined to destroy pizza. Time after time, Domino’s survived the Noid’s attacks. The premise worked to promote the chain’s timely delivery. “Avoid the Noid” was a phrase that was hard to avoid for years.

Now, as the world’s largest pizza chain moves its creative account from CPB to Work In Progress, it is out with Noid-focused marketing that includes work from both agencies.

“We just trusted our guts that there’s just a love and a nostalgia that would make this successful,” says Trumbull.

The Noid is back in TV spots trying to disrupt a delivery being handled by the Nuro R2 robot, an autonomous vehicle that operates without a driver. The self-driving robot is being tested by a single Domino’s location in Houston for online prepaid orders at certain hours as part of a partnership Domino’s began with Nuro in 2019.

The spot was shot more than a year ago, then put on hold when COVID-19 delayed the rollout of the Nuro R2.

With help from the Noid and the 30-minute delivery promise it promoted, Domino’s has long been the dominant name in pizza delivery, even when Pizza Hut was the leading pizza chain. Domino’s didn’t take over the No. 1 spot until 2017, long after the Noid’s initial run.

During her tenure at the pizza giant, Trumbull’s friends and family have often asked her when Domino’s would bring back the character.

But few may have been aware that the Noid met a disturbing demise. A man named Kenneth Lamar Noid took issue with the ads, apparently feeling they were a plot against him. He held two Domino’s workers hostage in a suburban Atlanta restaurant in 1989 and was later found not guilty of charges related to that incident by reason of insanity. Domino’s continued to use the Noid character in its marketing. Then Mr. Noid died by suicide in 1995.

“It was a horribly unfortunate tragedy that came from an unexpected coincidence,” says Trumbull.

While younger generations of pizza eaters will likely not be familiar with the incident, Domino's risks putting a spotlight back on the episode by featuring the Noid so prominently again. The chain appears to be banking that positive feelings of nostalgia will outweigh any negativity. 

The new TV campaign was cooked up by a team of creatives at CPB who have now switched over to Domino’s new creative agency, WorkInProgress. The team that recently jumped over to WIP — an agency started in 2016 by CPB alums who worked on Domino’s — includes Creative Directors Kelly McCormick and D’Arcy O’Neill, Associate Creative Directors Jake Roberts and Dylan Cimo, and Executive Producer Rachel Noonan. The spots were produced by Arts & Sciences, led by director Matt Lenski, and the CGI work was done in partnership with Artjail.