Pizza Chain’s Controversial Campaign Brings the Heat

A Dallas-based pizza chain has generated a lot of buzz for running a promotional campaign targeted at Spanish-speaking audiences.

Pizza Patron, which owns 104 outlets across the country, is planning on giving away a large pepperoni pizza on the evening of June 5 to any customer who orders in Spanish.

Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patron, said in a statement that the promotion “makes great business sense—it is an opportunity for us to strengthen the relationship we have with our core customer.” He told USA Today that 70% of the pizza chain’s customer base is Hispanic.

This clever promotional ploy to generate buzz among its target audience has led to some heated criticism. Peter Thomas, chairman of the Conservative Caucus, told USA Today that this campaign “seems to punish people who can’t speak Spanish, and I resent that.”

And it’s not just people from outside the Hispanic community who are unhappy with the campaign. Marcela Gomez, president of Hispanic Marketing Group, told the USA Today that maybe Pizza Patron “thought it was a cute thing to do, but I think it’s discrimination.”

One might think that criticism from what appears to be both ends of the political and cultural spectrum may cause Pizza Patron to reconsider the campaign, but that’s not how the company operates. This isn’t the first buzz-worthy gimmick from the chain. In 2007, the company’s executives received death threats over its “Pizza Por Pesos” program, in which the chain accepted Mexican pesos at all of its U.S. locations as a form of payment. It continues this practice to this day.

It seems Pizza Patron was successful in accomplishing what had to be one of the main goals of this PR stunt—to generate buzz not only among the Hispanic community, but among the public at large as well. There’s always going to be some pushback when it comes to dealing in cultural and political issues. But for PR pros developing campaigns that might touch on such issues, it generally comes down to determining if the positives outweigh the negatives.

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