Domino’s Caught in NYTimes Cheese Storm

It’s enough to give the marketers at Domino’s heartburn.
The pizza chain, which had been having a stellar year, was collateral damage in a front-page Sunday New York Times story on Dairy Management, a government-run program that gets rid of the nation’s extra cheese by finding new places for it. One of those was on Domino’s pizzas.
According to the article, Dairy Management spent $12 million on a marketing campaign from Crispin, Porter + Bogusky and Third Street Mining Co. for a new, cheesier pizza called the Wisconsin, which sports six cheeses on top and two in the crust. A Times analysis found the Wisconsin has 12 grams of fat, which is about three-quarters of the daily maximum.
Though Taco Bell is also mentioned in the article, Domino’s is mentioned in the first paragraph next to a picture of a Domino’s pizza being squirted with some kind of cheese. The chain, which had been the subject of a YouTube-based social media disaster in 2009, made no mention of the article on its Web site (which still runs the headline “More Cheese!”) and didn’t address it on its Facebook or Twitter feeds.

A Domino’s rep said that the company was “very proud” of its partnership with Dairy Management Inc., adding that the Times story was wrong on one count: “100 percent of these dollars come from America’s Dairy Farmers and our partnership with Dairy Management, Inc.—not the U.S. government or taxpayer money.”

“The DMI is wholly funded by dairy farmers,” said Stacey Stevens, a Dairy Management Inc. rep.
Despite the fact that a Sunday New York Times A1 story usually spurs dozens of follow up stories by smaller competitors, Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates, said Domino’s pain will be limited. “They may get some flak for it, but putting more cheese on a pizza isn’t that much of a brand risk,” said Adamson, adding that consumers who don’t read the story might get the idea that something even worse was going on. That said, per Adamson: “This won’t be a huge issue. Not many people linger on the front page these days.”