Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


SOMETIMES, ADVERTISING works. Other times, there are glorious PR spin-outs. Generally, the latter are more entertaining to read about than the former. A recent BBC News item recounted several spin-outs happening in Russia. I also recall a campaign that worked wonderfully well in Japan.

Shake Hands with the Colonel. Already recounted at SimanaitisSays, the story is worth retelling: Karaage is a Japanese technique of deep-frying, especially popular there with chicken. So, back in 1970, it wasn’t surprising that Kentucky Fried Chicken formed a joint venture with Mitsubishi to open KFC restaurants throughout Japan.

A typical KFC restaurant in Japan. The sign reads Kentakkii. Image from

To familiarize the Japanese with American manners, each KFC restaurant has a statue of Colonel Harland Sanders, his hands outstretched in welcome. He’s slightly downsized from real life, all the more approachable, and countless Japanese have had photos “shaking hands with the Colonel,” just like the campaign suggested.

This was PR spin of the finest, most deft sort.

Domino’s Pizza Tats in Russia. By contrast, according to BBC News, U.S. pizza purveyor Domino’s Pizza offered people in Russia a “Domino’s Forever” deal: free pizza for life.

Image from

Translated, the initial PR spin read, “The conditions are extremely simple: 1) Make a real tattoo with our logo in a visible place (you can design the tattoo as you like). 2) Post a photo on a social network (Insta, FB or VK) with the hashtag #dominosnavsegda (#dominosforever). 3) On October 31, 2018, we solemnly award certificates to participants! Participants received as many as 100 free pizzas per year for a century.”

The Russian reads “Domino’s Forever.”

BBC News reports that after hundred of posts appeared on Instagram, Facebook, and the Russian VKontakte, “The pizza chain clarified only ‘the first 350 people’ to post such pictures on social media would receive the free meals, and warned that while the tattoo can be any colour, it must be at least 2 cm (0.79 in.) in length.”

Furthermore, Domino’s Pizza provided guidance on the “visible place” rule. Image from BBC News.

Customer optimism being what it is, tat pics kept flowing in, until Domino’s Pizza called an official halt based on the “first 350 people” clarification.

I’d call this a glorious PR spin-out.

A little Internet sleuthing reveals another American competitor for fast-food rubles. Indeed, this video suggests that Burger King may have started the tat madness back in 2012.

Image from Radio Free Europe.

But Wait—There’s More! As reported in Radio Free Europe, June 21, 2018, ”The Russian division of the American fast-food chain Burger King has apologized for offering a lifetime supply of hamburgers to Russian women who get pregnant by World Cup players.… Critics assailed the offer, announced on Burger King’s Russian social-media site, as tasteless and sexist.”

Image from

Radio Free Europe continued, “The posting on VK [VKontakte], the Russian equivalent of Facebook, had promised a reward of 3 million rubles ($47,000) and a lifetime supply of free Whopper burgers to women who get ‘the best football genes’ and ‘ensure the success of the Russian team for generations to come.’ ”

“Burger King’s Russian division,” Radio Free Europe observes, “has placed controversial ads on social media more than once. Last year, an online ad made fun of a Russian teenage rape victim, prompting an outpouring of criticism that forced the company to take the ad down.”

I believe Burger King Russian division gets the overall win in PR spin-outs. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

2 comments on “PR SPINS AND SPIN-OUTS

  1. Bob Storck
    September 15, 2018

    Back in the late 70s, I was a design engineer for AMF Versatran, one of the first volume industrial robot manufacturers. Our Euro partner was British Hawker Siddley, Eastern Europe was Polish Prab, and Asian was Japan’s Fuji Industries. I visited all three, mostly sorting out alternate part issues to suit their suppliers. Hawker was the worst, wanting Whitworth fasteners, and machining the main vertical and horizontal structural tubes to an odd dimension … I think so they were the sole source of parts!

    Fuji was a delight. their plant was quite a bit north, but accessible by air and bullet train. They put me up in a delightful Japanese style apartment with sleeping pad, wooden cradle for a pillow, and a charcoal burner for heat and cooking tea, etc. In my first three week stay, every meal I had a host for company … partly to help my unfamiliarity, but mostly so they could practice English.

    At the end of our visit, the Japanese management told me they had arranged a special meal, but wanted it to be a surprise. We dressed in suits and ties, and boarded the bullet train, my hosts smiling in anticipation and giggling all the time. After an hour and a half, we were in downtown Tokyo, and I was dreaming of Kobe beef, served by geishas. We walked and walked, ending up in the neon Ginza, and I could tell we were getting close as my half dozen hosts got more and more excited.

    Finally we turned a corner, and the ta-da moment … the first McDonald’s in Tokyo!!

    I was urged to lead the group through the line, and they all ordered exactly what I had done … one by one, in their best English. No “we’ll have 8 orders of what he has” … they called out individually showing they’d paid attention. I wound up with far more than I would have as the boss kept urging, ‘Why not you order shake … or dessert … or?’ And yes Dennis, they did have chopsticks!

    I’ve visited McDonald’s all over the world including Sweden (soy burgers), New Zealand (mutton burger) and Moscow (cabbage instead of lettuce) Around Europe, you get a lot of pork, tasty local cheeses in the mix, local fried fruit pies, and strange stuff deep fried. A curious variety.

    Yet the most different event was in Gainesville, GA when during the SCCA runoffs in ’75, they darkened the store one night a week, and took your order at the table, served in waiter and waitress attire, not uniforms … and we had table cloths and candlelight.

    Cheers, Bob
    btw – My first AMF job was with our MultiCheck fast food cash register … you’d press a burger instead of price. Stores paid for machines easily in pricing and change accuracy … 90% of time, errors favored customers. Our big client was Burger King, and I visited HQ several times, and dined on experimental meals. They considered six packs of sliders, grits, fried okra and grilled chitlins at times.

  2. Michael Rubin
    September 15, 2018

    A former colleague in PR finally gave up trying to explain what he did and just replied “advertising” when asked. So I begin the following remarks cautiously, despite 30 some odd years in the craft. The pizza and burger actions you commented on Dennis would technically be called “promotions” since they required specific sales with a bonus involved. I’ll guess the KFC was a hybrid thanks to the selfies and use of social media. The Russian Burger King deal was what we in the biz used to call a “Massive F… Up” that absolutely had to originate in the advertising department!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: