In Their Own Words: The Biggest Brand Failures of All-Time, part 2: Domino’s Pizza

Today’s entry is brought to you by Junior Writer Thomas LaSordo. In an attempt to one-up his fellow junior writer’s, he sought out Noid, a former Domino’s Pizza mascot, and pushed him to tell the story of his time at the pizza chain. He got a little more than he bargained for.

A Case of Mistaken Identity
by
Thomas LaSordo

While I admit my favorite pizza chain is Papa John’s, I have always been interested in the advertising campaigns run by Domino’s. Perhaps it was the idea that they’re goal is to get your pizza to you in “30 minutes or less”, and while that had proved to be a dangerous philosophy, it appealed to the consumer in me. When I order pizza, it’s because it sounds really good, and since pizza is practically the embodiment of eating food that’s bad for you, the desire to consume (the high-calorie, high-fat, high-stroke probability) triangular slices of bread, cheese, and gratuitous toppings typically dissipates not long after the order is purchased. That, and pizza is fucking expensive. If I’m dropping $15 on a 14″ pie, I better be treated like Augustus Caesar. Just saying.

It was with this in mind that I began looking into Domino’s advertising strategies and happened upon the story of one of their most interesting employees. In 1986, the pizza chain, who would also dip into such pop culture classics as The Goonies, the Super Mario Brothers’ Super Show, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, decided they needed an official spokesperson to cement their “30 minutes or less” philosophy. So, after searching far and wide, they came upon an anatomically distant humanoid who went by the name Noid. As part of his gimmick, he referred to himself as “a-noid”, a play on the term “annoyed”, making him kind of weird-looking George Carlin, just a not really all that funny version. Domino’s employed him, developed a marketing strategy around him, and unleashed Noid upon the world. The plan proved disastrous.

I tracked Noid to Boise, Idaho, where he was working on a potato farm. After his shift ended, I took the former television personality out to dinner, where we discussed his time at Domino’s, as well as a personal rivalry with another pizza mascot.

TZL: So, how are the potatoes?
Noid: (laughing) Don’t ask me that.
TZL: (laughing) Sorry. So, should we get down to business?
Noid: Sure.
TZL: What was it like working at Domino’s?
Noid: They had a plan for me, and even though I didn’t know much about advertising, I felt good about it. They were really interested in what I thought and determining where my strengths were so we could develop an effective way to get the Domino’s philosophy out to the people.
TZL: The “30 minutes or less” campaign.
Noid: Yes, but by that time, it was more like “we’re going to do our best to get it to you in 30 minutes or less, but there are no guarantees.”
TZL: Seems kind of contradictory.
Noid: Yeah, but given some of the events of the few years before I came along, it made sense.
TZL: How so?
Noid: Let’s just say Domino’s drivers were probably one of the inspirations for Stainless Games to create Carmageddon.
TZL: That bad, huh?
Noid: Yeah.

We sat in silence for a moment while Noid ate his baked potato and I stared at mine.

TZL: Enjoying that potato?
Noid: Yeah. I mean, it’s practically all I eat here, but shit, it’s better than pizza.
TZL: Speaking of, tell me about your time at Dominos.
Noid: Well, I could start from the beginning, but it’s just typical advertising stuff — commercials, meetings, appearances. I think the best place to start would be in 1988.
TZL: Why 1988?
Noid: I attended a mascot convention in Atlantic City that year. I met Spot [of 7-Up fame], Tony the Tiger, a bunch of guys dressed up as Vulcans…
TZL: Vulcans?
Noid: They were in the wrong place.
TZL: Oh.
Noid: Anyway, I met a bunch of advertising forerunners, including Caesar.
TZL: Caesar?
Noid: Pizza? Pizza?
TZL: Oh.
Noid: Yeah. That son of a bitch was so loved by everyone there and a total horse’s ass to me. He talked a bunch of shit and just belittled me in front of everyone there. I almost kicked his ass.
TZL: Why didn’t you?
Noid: The “Public Relations Nightmare Clause” in my Domino’s contract. I couldn’t break it. I had kids to feed.
TZL: You had kids?
Noid: Yeah. It’s a long story.
TZL: Okay. Please, continue.
Noid: Well, the incident with Caesar inspired me to take Domino’s ads to a whole new level. So, for the remainder of 1988, Domino’s and myself worked tirelessly to get the company’s philosophies out to not only our current customers, but also new ones. Hell, I was even in Moonwalker with Michael Jackson, Joe Pesci, and John Lennon’s kid. On a personal level, I wanted to take Little Caesar’s customers away from that big-nosed asshole.
TZL: So, did it work?
Noid: Probably too well…
TZL: What do you mean?
Noid: My life began to change on January 30, 1989. Some crazy person, who’s last name was the same as my name, thought the commercials were a personal attack on him. He went into a Domino’s in Atlanta and held a couple of our employees hostage for over five hours. I wanted to go and help them, but the company wouldn’t let me. It was like they valued their “money-maker” more than the kids who worked at the grassroots level.
TZL: What makes you say that?
Noid: That’s what one of their ad guys said.
TZL: Oh.
Noid: So, while I’m practically holed away against my will, this lunatic is holding these kids at gunpoint, demanding pizza, one-hundred grand, a getaway vehicle, and a copy of The Widow’s Son.
TZL: A book?
Noid: Yeah. Anyway, this guy eventually surrendered and was charged with a host of infractions. Aggravated assault. Kidnapping. Extortion. Possession of a firearm. You know, the usual stuff someone gets charged with for holding up a pizza place.
TZL: Damn.
Noid: Of course, he got off because he was insane.
TZL: Oh.
Noid: Yeah. It struck me. I didn’t know how to process it, and in the aftermath, I was no longer doing commercials or public appearances. But, Domino’s really benefited from the exposure.
TZL: How so?
Noid: Well, a video game for MS-DOS and the Commodore 64 came out later that year called Avoid the Noid, where I tried to keep a delivery guy from getting a pizza to the customer within the 30-minute time limit. In 1990, Capcom made another game starring me for the Nintendo named Yo! Noid. There were toys and more commercials and more appearances. I was starting to burn out.
TZL: That sucks. How did it all end?
Noid: Well, the “brilliant” ad men for Domino’s ran out of ideas and feared using me again, especially since the crazy guy was found not guilty by reason of insanity. At that same time, Spot and the California Raisins were moving into the spotlight and with nothing new to go on, even my ideas from behind-the-scenes were dismissed. I was pushed aside. My services were no longer needed. It was all for the best though, I was getting really tired and disillusioned with Domino’s anyway.
TZL: What did you do after that?
Noid: I just coasted for a while. I worked odd jobs, wrote a book, and focused on my family.
TZL: A book?
Noid: Yeah. It didn’t get published though, which is totally okay. It was more for therapy. The tenure at Domino’s kind of weighed on my spirit.
TZL: That’s cool. I’m glad things have been working out for you.
Noid: Not exactly…
TZL: Explain?
Noid: (sigh) A couple of years went by after I left Domino’s and my wife and I were beginning to stress over money. So, against my better judgement, I got into contact with Capcom for another game, which was given the green-light. But, the money could not be secured and the company was spending time focusing on Resident Evil, Breath of Fire, and Street Fighter. I mean, I get it. They were juggling three major gaming franchises and developing others. My wife, however, didn’t quite understand.
TZL: Didn’t she work?
Noid: No. She was comfortable sponging off the money I made at Domino’s.
TZL: So, she was a gold digger.
Noid: (nods) And I was becoming a broke nigga.
TZL: So, what did you do from there?
Noid: I took work whenever I could get it. No matter the hours or the pay. I began burning out again, and my wife got worse and worse. My kids were even starting to resent me. In late 1998, while working a temp job as the mascot for the Philadelphia Phillies, I was approached by Dennis Corman, who was a big fan of mine in the late-80’s while he was in college. He told me that I was his favorite ad-character. I was happy to meet a fan. I mean, I knew they existed, but I had never met one. He gave me his card and told me to call him. I almost threw it away, thinking all I would do is reminisce about my painful past with the guy, but instead of tossing the card, I put in my pocket and went back to work.
TZL: Then what happened?
Noid: The Phillies got their asses kicked and I went back to my motel room. I called Dennis and we spoke for a bit about his admiration of me and some of the things that happened at Domino’s and in my personal life. Then, he caught me off-guard.
TZL: How?
Noid: He was an agent and really wanted to get me back into the spotlight. I was initially apprehensive, but he was very convincing. He explained that he had connections that could get me back into entertainment and was very specific that it could be on my terms, save for one detail.
TZL: Which was?
Noid: Divorce my wife.
TZL: Did you?
Noid: (laughs) Fucking right, I did.
TZL: (laughs) Then what?
Noid: Dennis hooked me up with Matt Groening, who put me in a couple of Simpson’s episodes. I began writing and speaking to others who followed my tenure at Domino’s. I also made appearances on Family Guy, 30 Rock, and other television programs. I told my story at conventions and upscale parties. I got back to that level of widespread acceptance I had before the hostage incident, but without the stress of a major company breathing down my neck. I was doing everything on my own terms, and it made me happy. Then, Domino’s came crawling back.
TZL: What?
Noid: Yeah, Domino’s wanted me to come back and advertise for them again. This was at the end of 2009. I declined actual advertising, but Dennis and I worked out an agreement that they could use my likeness on a  series of T-shirts. I got a pretty good check, which I looked at as reparations, and Domino’s could not make a dime off me. All proceeds from sales of the T-shirts went to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
TZL: They went for that willingly?
Noid: I think they were desperate. Pizza Hut and Papa John’s were kicking their asses hard at the time.
TZL: Cool.
Noid: Yeah, but because I’m a nice guy, I worked with Domino’s again.
TZL: Yeah?
Noid: In 2011, I signed a contract to be a promotional figure on their Facebook page and allowed my likeness to be seen at the end of an ad they ran at the beginning of that summer. I also allowed another video game to be made.
TZL: How long were you at Domino’s the second time?
Noid: I’m still there, technically. Noid advertisements are made on my terms and when I want them to be. In return, they have the right to use my likeness for internet advertisements.
TZL: Like Facebook?
Noid: Exactly.
TZL: So, why are you working at the potato farm?
Noid: Well, it’s something to do for right now. I have to keep myself busy nowadays, and since I’m on sabbatical from traveling and appearances, I wanted a job that was a little more “modest”, so to speak.
TZL: That’s cool. You seem to have a good head on your shoulders now.
Noid: Yeah. Honestly, for a long time, I didn’t think I would get a happy ending. This is nice. I feel centered. At peace. Even though I’m in the shadow of the limelight, I still talk to Dennis and stuff. We go out for dinner every so often and discuss “possible” future projects. He’s great and it’s nice to have an agent that has my interests in mind.
TZL: That’s great, Noid. I’m really happy for you.
Noid: Thanks.

So many who live in the watchful eyes of the television-obsessed public fall from grace and never pull themselves out of the black hole of failed stardom. The Noid, however, defied the odds set before him by the many personalities that proceeded him. Through hard work and drive, The Noid overcame the shadows cast upon him by the turmoil and tragedy of working at Domino’s and, once again, grabbed the reigns of his horse. This time, it’s been on his terms and for me, seeing him happy and fulfilled is such a positive reinforcement in the idea that no matter how bad things can get, there is always a silver lining.

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About Robert L. Franklin

Ah, the About Me section - social networking's excuse for you sounding like an elitist prick. Hmm... what to say? What to say?
This entry was posted in Surfing the Waves and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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