As corporate philanthropy and marketing stunts converge, who is actually benefiting?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the era of bizarre corporate do-gooding started. But in June 2018 it certainly went viral. That’s when Domino’s launched its “Paving for Pizza” campaign, which included video shot from inside one of its pizza boxes while a driver navigated all manner of terrible road conditions. The message: Poorly maintained…

As corporate philanthropy and marketing stunts converge, who is actually benefiting?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the era of bizarre corporate do-gooding started. But in June 2018 it certainly went viral. That’s when Domino’s launched its “Paving for Pizza” campaign, which included video shot from inside one of its pizza boxes while a driver navigated all manner of terrible road conditions. The message: Poorly maintained roads aren’t just an inconvenience—they can devastate the deliciousness of your future pizza delivery.Domino’s marketing campaign had an added benefit of community improvement: It committed to fill potholes in 20 places around the country, to ensure smooth pizza rides. All residents in those places had to do was requested aid online, and the company would start contacting town or city officials. As Ad Week reported, well over a 100,00 people took action, while Bernie Sanders blasted the idea because it steamrolled over a more important discussion about why public infrastructure is failing in the first place.We don’t need pizza companies to build roads. We need pizza companies to pay their workers enough.”Anand GiridharadasRegardless, Paving for Pizza has since expanded to all 50 states with Domino’s publicly mapping and branding their progress. Some roads are literally stamped with the company’s logo and the slogan, “Oh yes we did.” Fast-forward less than two years and these sorts of corporate philanthropy tactics are commonplace: Numerous companies have found ways to promote their product or service alongside some act that ostensibly boosts social welfare, often in places where the government used to carry the load.Outdoorsy-themed Busch beer recently offered to plant 100 trees for every person who pilgrimaged to a pop-up shop in the middle of a national forest. Its cheap-beer brethren Keystone tackled the affordable housing crisis by giving free rent for a year to 13 customers who could prove their brand loyalty. Jimmy Johns offered a free house to someone suffering the indignity of not being within their delivery zones. Even Pornhub is in on the act: Its latest initiative encourages people to watch “dirty porn”—the joke being it’s a couple having sex on a polluted beach—to unlock a donation that funds related cleanup efforts.Most of these actions have built-in limitations: caps on amount being raised or distributed per promotion. They’ll obviously fall short of paving every road—or, in the case of yet another beer company contest, even pay
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