In case you’re wondering what is the pizza of choice for this year’s presidential nominees, you won’t be able to find out on Tuesday, as initially planned by Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE:YUM)’s Pizza Hut.
The company had introduced a marketing campaign and contest daring attendees at Tuesday’s Town-Hall style presidential debate to ask President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney the divisive and important question, “Sausage or Pepperoni?”
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A media backlash ensued, and the company cancelled its debate plans.
Pizza Hut’s chief marketing officer, Kurt Kane, said in a statement on Monday, “The anticipation and buzz around this question proves that this debate should be taken to the people. 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.”
Joining in poking fun at the pizza campaign was Stephen Colbert. On a recent episode of his Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report,” he asked, “What could be more American than using our electoral process for product placement?”
He further commented that a free Pizza Hut pie each week suggested that “if you eat one of their pizzas every week, you will die in 30 years.”
The blog Gawker mocked the promotion with the headline, “Want Free Pizza Hut Pizza for Life? Just Make a Mockery of the American Democratic System on Live TV.” In a post, it wrote that contestants will “embarrass themselves on live television before the President of the United States and millions of their fellow Americans.”
Twitter also showed its displeasure and trashed Pizza Hut for “hijacking a presidential debate for marketing.” Tweets called it a “silly” promotion and “guerrilla marketing gone awful.” Others said it showed that the U.S. was moving toward an “idiocracy.”
Pizza Hut’s promotion comes as TV audiences have become tired of the usual commercials, driving marketers to become creative in their ways to capture viewers. By using the presidential election, it offered a unique opportunity as more Americans are watching this year’s election’s debates.
Tuesday’s debate represents the second one between the two presidential candidates. In the previous one, there was an estimated 67.2 million viewers who saw it on a Wednesday night earlier this month, reported AP. These numbers made it the biggest TV audience to watch a presidential debate since 1992, which included incumbent president George Bush, democratic candidate Bill Clinton, and independent Ross Perot.
From the news, Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE:YUM)’s stock is up 2.22 percent, trading at $70.99. Year-to-date, the stock is up 20.27 percent. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn said a few remarks earlier this month about the company, suggesting it was worth a look.