Sunday, January 16, 2022

Dominos Pizza's Cynical Ad

Just a quick thought on cynicism... and Domino's Pizza.

I believe the real national crisis we face today is cynicism. The age of cynicism actually started in the 1950's (I've discussed that before). That led to the destruction of many of the institutions needed to hold society together in the 1960's and 1970's. The 1980's were a brief reverse of that trend, but by the 1990's we were back at it hard. Today, we live so deeply in the culture of cynicism that we "question" everything, we mistake cynicism for wisdom, we mistake snark for reasoned debate and we pride ourselves in our ignorance. It allows people to dismiss objective fact as a subjective point of view, to think truth is relative, and to dismiss anything because the "wrong" person espouses it. It poisons relationships. It poisons society. It poisons learning. We have reached a point where we know nothing, believe nothing, trust nothing, and can achieve nothing.

How does this relate to Dominos?


There has long been a debate as to whether or not disclosing an act of charity invalidates the act. We all agree it is a good thing, for example, to help people in need (well, most agree, some are too cynical to understand this). But many think that advertising the fact you acted charitably invalidates your charitable act because, by telling people, you convert the intent of your act of charity from a selfless act of kindness into a selfish act of self-promotion. And naturally, cynical people are masters at rhetorically finding self-interest to negate good deeds.

Are they right?

No. The charitable act is still a charitable act. The person helped is still better off, and the act was done without requirement. These are good things and should not be dismissed cynically. We should be encouraging them regardless of motive.

That said, I would offer one caveat. This is when the act of charity was itself done cynically. How can we tell? Famous people often do some charitable acts before a camera when they are in trouble and need good PR. Companies do this too. Or how about when the effort spent advertising the charitable act far exceeds the act of charity itself? I would consider that cynically exploiting the goodwill of people because the effort was not in the charitable act, but in exploiting the charitable act. While I would not criticize the act of charity itself, I would criticize the exploitation. In fact, I think this type of behavior only adds to the culture of cynicism because it confirms the false idea that charity is something people do to virtue signal.

And that brings me to Dominos.

Dominos is running an ad during NFL games (and more). In this ad, they talk about how delivery fees are killing small business restaurants and how they decided to help. They bought $100,000 worth of delivery fee cards "and no one paid for delivery fees." And then some small business people praise Dominos for their efforts. Angelic, right?

Or is it?

Let's do the math. Start with the $100,000 spent. Divide it by 50 states... you get $2,000 per state. Divide that by, let's say, two major cities per state. We're down to $1,000 per major city. If Dominos advertised, "We just spent $1,000 in your city on small business's delivery fees," would you be impressed? Hardly. Dominos gave these out as $50 cards. So basically, they gave $50 gift cards to 20 businesses in the two biggest cities in each state. Still impressed? I'm not, but it's charity and I will commend it. I'm glad they did it. Nice.

BUT... then they advertised it. It's in heavy rotation too, so they've probably spent $10 million advertising this fact (Dominos spends about $40 million a year on advertising). That means they spent about $100 advertising every dollar they actually spent helping. I would call that cynical exploitation. You?

Here's the ad: LINK. Tell me it doesn't suggest that they bought a TON of these.


As an aside, all the cynicism about people only acting out of self-interest comes from a deeply cynical and wrong philosophical argument. The argument comes from an apocryphal story involving Lincoln and another passenger arguing on a coach about whether or not altruism (a truly selfless act) exists. As they argue, they come upon a pig stuck in the mud. It's squealing in pain. Lincoln jumps out and saves the pig, ruining his suit. He then notes to the other passenger, if there was no such thing as altruism, then why would I ruin my suit to help the pig? The other passenger retorts: you did it out of self-interest because you could no longer stand to hear the suffering, so you ultimately were only doing this to make yourself feel better. Cynics latch onto this and argue it means there is no such thing as a selfless act.

But they forget Lincoln's reply. He said, if there is no such thing as altruism, where does the impulse to stop others from suffering come from in the first place? And he is right. Altruism exists. To argue otherwise falsely devalues the human spirit.



Kyle T. said...

Your first paragraph about cynicism and how it has poisoned absolutely everything in our day to day lives really hit home with me Andrew. You nailed it, I have nothing to ad.

I have to admit I’ve never heard the Lincoln story before I read it here and now. It’s actually very inspiring. Interesting that some people are such cynics that they would warp every act of charity into it being just an act of selfishness. There is a line between the hucksters at Domino's manipulating charity for their own ends, and genuinely charitable individuals who actually want to help.


AndrewPrice said...

Hi Kyle, I'm glad it hit home with you. The more I think about it, the greater the danger I see from our modern cynicism. Almost all of our problems stem from a really deep cynicism which just makes it impossible for us to solve problems and relate to other people. I even see in my kids where their friends are super shallow because of it -- across their entire generation. Without trust and good faith, we live pretty miserable lives and I think society (and out politics) is reflecting that.

I first heard the Lincoln story in college. Believe it or not, the professor actually only told the first part. Something struck me as wrong with it and I looked it up and found the rest. Since then, I've seen a lot of people misuse the story by only using part of it. I actually think it's a pretty powerful story. If there isn't something good inside of us to begin with, there why do we even define good behavior as good? I think people are better than we think and I think the vast majority are far better than the media portrays. Unfortunately, the lousy people seem to be winning the culture wars.

Totally agree on charity. There are many people out there who do good just to do good, not as a sale pitch. What Domino's has done really rubs me wrong because it's such a minor act and they are trying to present it as world changing.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I'm banned from the other thread now. LOL Weird. Anyways, I LOVE The Trouble With Harry. It's got such a wonderful feel to it. The acting is fantastic. The romance between the old couple is cute. It's so much better than anything being turned out today.

My other favorite is Rope. That one is twisted, but amazingly shot, beautifully written and just plain shocking. You also feel the utter disgust as Jimmy Stewart realizes that his careless playing with fire is what cause this. I love most of his work though!

Kyle T. said...

Wow Andrew, Blogspot has been on the fritz lately. Getting banned on your own thread is just another day ending in y lol.

I’ll have to give Rope a watch, I’ve never actually seen it! Just looked it up and it sounds interesting, Apparently Rope is filmed almost entirely in one take. It also appears to star the same actor from Strangers on a Train; one of my favorite Hitchcock films. Plus James Stewart?! Yea count me in… I’ll let you know when I get a chance to see it.
Gotta admit I’m excited… this is one of the few Hitchcock film’s I’ve never viewed so I’m going in fresh. I may have to purchase it as no one is streaming it.

Thanks for the recommendation!


AndrewPrice said...

Kyle, Rope is fantastic. The one shot thing is really cool, though Hitchcock does cheat. I believe it was really six, which is still amazing. I don't know if you know the story at all, but this is one time the direction really is special in terms of creating suspense -- Hitch's decisions are not just artistic, they really affect the audience... you'll see what I mean.

Stewart is great in this. He's one of my favorites and is perfect here. Yes, Farley Granger is in it. He's really good, but John Dall steals the show. Dall and Grange were both gay and the story has a fascinating gay subtext to it - which was really a brave thing to do in a 1940s movie. Interestingly, Jimmy Stewart apparently didn't know that when he filmed it.

Ultimately, the writing is amazingly clever. It's also based on a real life murder. This was one of the five "Lost Hitchcock" films (like Trouble With Harry) which were rarely shown because of distribution rights issues. Critics hated it, but they are just being smug. I think it was too clever for them.

I hope you like it!

tryanmax said...

Worse than people mistaking cynicism for wisdom, cynicism is actually taught as critical thinking. Whereas real critical thinking requires looking below the surface of a thing to discover whether the apparent matches the actual, people are taught by everything from the school system to entertainment that everything has a twist, a catch, or a gotcha!

In school, this takes the form of loading students up with trivia, hammering home the oddities that defy convention while downplaying the convention. Anyone who has spent time watching procedural crime dramas knows the game. The guilty party is never the guy they lay sights on first.

The same message gets repeated over and over such that real critical thinking—things aren't always what they seem—gets supplanted by critical theory—nothing is what it seems.

That sets the stage for getting people to accept certain things as true regardless the evidence: the rich are greedy, whites are motivated by racism, men only oppress women.

As relates to Domino's, you can support local businesses by ordering national chain delivery pizza, because nothing is what it seems, get it?

Kyle T. said...

Andrew, I purchased Rope & watched it last night. It was as excellent as you described!
This may be one of my new favorites from Hitchcock… the whole film took place in an apartment, but it never felt boring or poorly paced! There is just so much attention to detail; from the sky turning to dusk in the background, to perfectly timed scenes that allow each actor a chance to grow their character. It was excellent. The story was deeply complicated, and the chemistry between the actors felt so real.

In my opinion Rope has some of Hitchcock's finest scenes in directing! For example: There is a point in the film where John Dall goes into the kitchen & drops the rope into a kitchen drawer; just this simple act is filmed brilliantly! The scene was perfectly timed & directed with the door swinging open and closed all in one take… such a simple scene became so much more with Hitchcock's attention to detail. Sounds silly when I type but the whole film is just burned into my head, I’ve been thinking about it all morning lol.
I’m glad I purchased it instead of renting; I’m definitely going to give Rope a repeat viewing in the near future.

I loved it, thanks for the recommendation Andrew! Its nice to unwind and watch a quality film like Rope… especially with all the crap going on in the world right now!


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