Sunday, April 03, 2005

Apprentice Show Delivers

Domino's Pizza's special guest-starring role on Thursday night's "The Apprentice" came with a surprise topping: Donald Trump's debut as its pitchman.
In a telephone interview earlier Thursday, the flashy billionaire talked up the new relationship: He called Ann Arbor based Domino's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Brandon "an amazing guy," he told me he loved Domino's Pizza, and, yes, he even talked about his new haircut.
At the beginning of the show, we saw Trump advertise Domino's 555 Deal -- three medium one-topping pizzas for $5 each.
Then, after watching the two teams create a new Domino's pizza, we got another surprise. We saw Trump star in a new Domino's commercial for the new American Classic Cheeseburger Pizza.
It's the first Trump commercial connected to an "Apprentice" episode that will air at times the show isn't on. Get ready to see Trump hawk cheeseburger pizzas for the next few weeks.
Domino's Pizza Inc., Michigan's biggest pizza delivery guys, bought a starring role on NBC's hit reality-TV show Thursday night.
Now they also have a pitchman who, by the way, a decade ago pitched Pizza Hut's Stuffed Crust Pizza with his then-wife, Ivana. But hey, new wife, new life, new pizza.
Sure, just watching "The Apprentice" has turned into one great big infomercial for assorted corporate guests. This season, the two teams -- Net Worth and Magna -- have been challenged with coming up with advertising programs or new products for big brand names, including Domino's, Burger King and Dove.
And Trump always says amazing things about the company, the CEO or their great new product.
Corporate cheeses like Trump and NBC's "The Apprentice," too.
" 'The Apprentice' is one of those happening shows right now," said Brandon, the CEO.
Brandon, who met Trump during the shooting, found him to be a "perfectly normal business guy."
Trump was friendly. He asked Brandon about the pizza business. He thanked Brandon for coming to the set.
"The minute they said 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, the camera's on. He almost adopted this whole other persona. He got this very tough, aggressive look on his face," Brandon said.
"It's all part of the hype of the show. He's smart enough to understand that."
As part of the local hype, Brandon held his own viewing party Thursday night at his Ann Arbor home for "The Apprentice." For snacks? What else? Guests were treated to the American Classic Cheeseburger Pizza. It was tasty.
Domino's made the pitch to be part of the show a year ago.
Holly Ryan, Domino's public relations manager, had suggested that Brandon write a letter to Trump. Ryan recognized the show as a pop-culture hit, but she and Brandon were skeptical about their chances.
"We figured there was a 1-in-100 chance we'd ever hear back," she said.
Brandon declined to say how much Domino's was paying to be part of the show, but he was pleased that Trump did the two ads, noting that Trump is one of the 10 hottest properties in advertising.
For the show, the two teams had to create a new pizza for Domino's.
And Trump deadpanned: "I love meatballs on my pizza."
The guests, including people from Domino's marketing and public relations staff, laughed regularly when "The Apprentice" candidates would make mistakes, such as being unable to slide a pizza onto the cutting table. At one point while the teams were having time juggling orders, Brandon shouted at the TV and laughed, "Looks easy, doesn't it?"
As for the meatballs, Trump didn't quite get his way, even if he still sort of thinks he did. We won't see meatball pizzas on the menu for Domino's soon -- if ever.
After years in the pizza business, Domino's marketing folks say that meatball pizzas don't go over well with most of the public.
So Domino's is doing its own pizza. The American Classic Cheeseburger Pizza -- $9.99 plus a second one-topping medium for $5 more in a limited-time offer -- features beef, a mix of American, provolone and cheddar cheeses, with a top layer of onions, bacon and tomatoes.
But make no mistake, Trump's talking up Domino's. So we talked to Trump, who was at his New York office, by phone Thursday morning, before the show.
Question: You're sporting a new haircut? Gotta ask you about that.
Answer: "Well, I did have it cut a little bit shorter. I wouldn't say new. But it is a little bit shorter."
Q: What do you think about Domino's pizza?
A: "I love the Domino's product."
Q: And have you tasted the new pizza?
A: "Many times. You know why I tasted it so much?"
Q: No.
A: "Because I did a commercial for them. And in every take, they did it 15 different ways, and in every take I took a big chunk out of a piece of pizza with the meatballs. And it was great. I almost didn't mind doing the commercial for that reason."
Q: So this pizza does have meatballs on it?
A: "The one that they made is the one that we're doing." (Not quite, according to Domino's. But then again, maybe Trump was trying to trick us before the show.)
Q: So is this the first time you've done a commercial connected to the show?
A: "Yes. And that's because Domino's has been such a terrific group to work with. They were totally professional. The chairman is an amazing guy. He's done an amazing job with the company. And I felt I should do it."
Q: How much are they paying you?
A: "Not very much. Well, you know they're very much involved with the show, so that's the primary motive."
Q: We're told that companies pay $2.5 million to $3 million to be part of the show. Is that about right?
A: "You know, it's funny. I get about $5 million to do a commercial, just unrelated to the show. And people will pay, they will pay quite a bit to be involved with the show because of the tremendous ratings that the show has. You know it's the hottest show on television."
Q: Any problems with having done the Pizza Hut commercial, and now Domino's?
A: "Well, Pizza Hut was many years ago."
Q: Any other thoughts about Domino's CEO Brandon?
A: "I think he's an amazing guy. He's an amazing leader. And everybody in that company that I've worked with loves him. And with that I have to go, hon, because I have to get on a plane."
Sure, it was probably his plane. But who would dare to tell Trump that his plane can wait? Or that he needs a haircut


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