This week’s political polls show us that the presidential race is heating up. Last week’s first debate pitted a spirited Mitt Romney against a feckless Barack Obama–and it changed the trajectory of the election by facilitating a virtual tie between the two candidates as we enter the final weeks of campaigning.
Our nation remains mired in two unpopular wars and a devastating, prolonged economic recession. And then there is the rest of world, which is increasingly either jobless or on fire. Americans are taking this election seriously, as they should. Pizza Hut, however, is not.
As PR experts we’re concerned about Pizza Hut’s latest publicity stunt, which offers a lifetime of free pizza to any attendee at the town hall debate—to be held at Hofstra University—who asks if the candidates prefer pepperoni or sausage on their pie. If you have a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan, or an unemployed family member, or if you just happen to care about fellow citizens that you don’t even know for some reason, the humor of this ill-conceived idea may be lost on you.
There is a difference between tailoring your marketing efforts to fit the political season and plotting to interrupt the process by exploiting democracy in action. America, and the rest of the world, doesn’t need the precious minutes of an important debate crassly interrupted by Pizza Hut’s strategy to sell more pizza. It’s absurd, insulting and embarrassing. It’s tone deaf to what the public is saying, thinking and feeling.
America, of course, is long overdue for a good laugh and a reason to make light of our scorched political landscape. But there is a difference between “too soon” and “hey, we’re still in the middle of this mess!” Right now, the mechanisms of democracy, like genuine political debates, are all we have to help us think and vote our way into a better tomorrow. In fact, the inappropriateness of Pizza Hut’s effort to disrupt the debate may be the one thing that all Americans can agree on.
Perhaps deep down we’re all cheese people.