Unlike the first debate, which was moderated by Jim Lehrer, the second is a town hall-style format. Undecided voters, selected by the Gallup Organization, will be asking the candidates pre-screened questions at Hofstra University on October 16th. But because the debate is live, one pizza-hungry participant could go off-script, in a commercially sponsored echo of a question famously put to President Bill Clinton during a 1994 town hall sponsored by MTV: "Is it boxers or briefs?"
"We recognize there are a lot of serious issues to be debated, but we also know a lot less serious -- but no less important -- ones are being discussed every night inside houses across the country," said Kurt Kane, CMO of Pizza Hut Inc., a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc. (YUM), in a press release. "So for the candidates to be able to show that they're in tune with all the issues, we felt a pizza-related question on behalf of The Pizza Party was very appropriate for a town hall debate."
The Pizza Party is Pizza Hut's election-themed marketing campaign, announced last week. The party's "candidate" is the restaurant's Big Dinner Box; customers are encouraged to show their support by signing up online at PizzaHut.com/PizzaParty. Those who register will receive free stuffed pizza rollers with their next online order.
But a much larger reward awaits the debate audience member who is willing to go through with the pepperoni-or-sausage stunt: Pizza Hut will give them an annual $520 gift card for a period of 30 years. Alternatively, they can choose a $15,600 check.
Other companies are also looking for publicity with election-based marketing campaigns. JetBlue Airways (JBLU) is offering 1,000 voters a chance to win a free flight out of the country if their candidate of choice loses. And Cabbage Patch Kids maker JAKKS Pacific (JAKK) will be auctioning a line of dolls that resemble the candidates, their VPs, and Michelle Obama, as a fundraiser for Rock the Vote.
What do you think of marketing campaigns based around a presidential election? Should companies respect the seriousness of these debates, or is it OK to have a some fun? Sound off in the comments, or tweet us @Daily_Finance.