Monday, August 26, 2019

A Madison Avenue Father Tried to Bring the US and Russia Closer Together Via Pizza, the Modern Day Daughter Slaps Down the Idea

Mikhail Gorbachev and grandaughter
By Robert Wenzel

Madison Darbyshire, a columnist for The Financial Times, sets the scene:
In November 1997, Mikhail Gorbachev, the former and final leader of the Soviet Union, made a Pizza Hut commercial. The media got wind of the advertisement before its release and the spot received perhaps the most press coverage of any advertisement since Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire when shooting a Pepsi ad in 1984.

Although the storyline for the elder statesman remained a closely guarded secret, I, then six years old, already knew the commercial by heart — because my dad, a young copywriter at the global ad agency BBDO, wrote it. With theatrical flair and accented voices, he acted the spot out to me and my sister over dinner weeks before it was due to air.

The ad goes like this:
a Russian family sitting in a Pizza Hut sees Gorbachev sharing pizza with his granddaughter. They proceed to argue about whether he was the source of all despair in Russia or all joy — namely, the sudden proliferation of American fast-food chains. In the end, they decide the pizza is worth it.
Here is the commercial:

But does the ad man's daughter appreciate how this signaled what could have been if the Russian-haters didn't have control of US international policy?

Does she understand that the United States broke a promise to Gorbachev and expanded NATO along the Russian border?

Nope, she apparently holds the Russian-hater view that it is all Vladimir Putin's fault, despite the US being the one that has put sanctions on Russia and continues its moves along the Russian border.

She continues:
When the ad was filmed, the view in the west was that Russia was on a convergence course, rather than a collision course, with the US.

Pizza Hut was one of the first US brands to enter the USSR, a startling ambassador of American culture. But as we now understand, the political reaction to the liberalisation Gorbachev initiated was already under way inside Russia, culminating on December 31 1999 when Vladimir Putin became acting president.

Modern viewers comment that they cannot fathom how an idea as outlandish as Gorbachev shilling for Pizza Hut came to be. My response is that they don’t know my dad.

While the idea of a professional copywriter may conjure sleek images from Mad Men, Don Draper never lined up noodles end to end on the kitchen counter to determine exactly how many feet are in one can of condensed chicken noodle soup (32ft) nor nearly gave his wife a heart attack by shaving inflated balloons with men’s razors to see which were gentle enough not to pop it. Tom Darbyshire did.

My dad was also of his time.
Does she not realize that by buying the "evil Russia" theme, she is just a daughter of her time leading the world from her influencer post at The Financial Times in the direction of hate rather than peace and trade? The exact opposite of what her father did.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.comand Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bankand most recently Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Robert Wenzel Talks Economics. More about Wenzel here.


  1. Accuse these people of racism. Make sure there's an audience.

  2. What does the left think of all the immigration from Russia and other former pieces of the Soviet Union? The way they talk it is as if Putin might make a few phone calls and activate a bunch of sleeper agents just like in the movie.