Domino's Pizza's Ultimate Social Media Experiment

Domino's Pizza is trying to take social media to the next level. The chain has purchased extensive advertising display space in New York City's Times Square and plans on posting unedited comments from customers through its site. The technology is fairly simple, but the experiment is going to truly test how long Domino's will actually pay oodles of dollars to broadcast its customers complaining about the chain on a 4,630-square-foot billboard.

It's been said that there is no such thing as bad publicity as long as the brand is spelled correctly. Domino's may be about to undermine that adage. The problem is, Domino's is pledging full openness—which is hard to do.

"Our customers deserve, and have come to expect, honesty from us. And when it comes to the idea of posting direct feedback in Times Square, it really doesn't get more honest and open than this," said Domino's CEO Patrick Doyle. "Our hope is that most of the feedback is positive, but our top priority is that people are seeing what is real."

They'll get real, all right. The challenge with this program is that it will have to be extensively edited. Domino's spokesperson Chris Brandon said the chain will censor messages for a variety of reasons, including copyrighted material/mentions (outside of Domino's), obscenities and offensive content. (Hmmmmm. Would "Domino's sucks" be considered offensive content?) But the chain will also have to censor for relevance (I doubt it will want to post things like "Fix the debt limit" or "Mary had a little lamb"), libel and self-promotional content from local merchants who will try and use the system to transmit free ads ("Walk two blocks north and visit Phil's House Of Sofas. 30 percent off everything, today only.").

But when all of that is done and the chain is left with seemingly real comments about Domino's products from seemingly real customers, who chooses what will get posted on the big board? Brandon stresses it will be everything, at least everything that can run in time. "Once it passes screening, all of it will run until a) the program ends on 8/23 or b) we max out on our total feedback capacity to meet our allotment for the month-long program," he said. "Again, there is no 'selection' of feedback once it passes screening."

What about the temptations, though? No independent player will be monitoring the selection process. What is to prevent an aggressive assistant who is handling the filtering from not removing a bunch of negative comments? Who's to know?

If the campaign's goal is to get people to think more kindly thoughts about Domino's Pizza, it will be effective to the extent the postings have credibility. Otherwise, it's just an ad, and all of the effort to solicit true customer comments for the chain will be wasted. Domino's will be making a TV commercial from the campaign, so presumably people know that positive comments will have a much better shot of being used.

On campaigns such as this, why not use an independent third-party to give people a reason to believe in the integrity of the selection process? The strong probability is that the campaign will indeed be honest. But it's the ultimate waste for Domino's to suffer the pain of paying to broadcast customer complaints—and to then receive no benefit because no one believed it.