How to Waste Advertising Money, or, Please Bring Cici’s Pizza to Boston

There are things in this world I fail to understand. Some of these are sensible sources of confusion, like the source of gravity or the nature of time. And some would baffle even Hawking: why would an ad for a pizza place show up on TV in a city a full 8-hour drive from the nearest restaurant?

I speak of Cici’s Pizza, who taunts me, endlessly, with their ads.

I’ve never been there; I’ve never even seen one in person. But I know all about them.

The all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. The various kinds of pizza (and pasta, and salad, and dessert). Their ridiculous $5.99 price, which makes me wonder just what that pizza could be made of if you can eat as much of it as you want for such a pittance. That promotion they ran where they put pennies around their parking lot and if you found one that said “free pizza” on it or something, you ate for free.

How do I know this? Oh, because in-between every other repeat of House or Law and Order or CSI: Wichita, I see one of their ads.

They’re good ads. Funny. Memorable. One of their ads plays off the Seinfeld-esque dilemma of the buffet line jumper: if somebody is trying to make up their mind between the sausage and pepperoni, is it kosher to just skip by on your way to the mushroom, or are you guilty of “cutting”? (According to the ad, it’s perfectly acceptable, and the pleasant suburban soccer mom you pass will give you a friendly smile as you do so.)

And even beyond the quality of the TV spots, it’s a solid product…everybody likes pizza, and who doesn’t salivate at the thought of stuffing as much of it down your gullet as you want for the price of a couple gallons of gas? You could probably save some money by showing 30 seconds of people shoveling pizza into their mouths with a repeated Billy-Mays-style (may he rest in peace) voiceover: “Cici’s Pizza: All you can eat for just $5.99!”

So we’ve established that I’m about one nine-volt battery and a safety pin away from giving myself a Cici’s Pizza prison tattoo. The issue is clearly not one of brand awareness. It’s availability. I just checked, and the nearest location to Boston is outside of Allentown, PA. Hey, it used to be State College. At least they’re getting closer.

And it’s not like every product is available everywhere. I can’t get Middleswarth potato chips outside of central PA. Yuengling hasn’t quite made it to Massachusetts. There are no California Tortillas in Brighton.

They also don’t advertise here. That is the crux of my issue, and my message to Cici’s: stop taunting me! Enough!

I know that the presence of the ads is likely some large package media buy, where somebody bought airtime on the USA Network with no regional targeting. They probably got it cheap enough that it didn’t matter that they were covering areas where no restaurants existed. Since it’s a franchise operation, maybe it was even a strategic move to get brand awareness in front of potential franchisees.

If I had the startup capital, I’d open one myself. So I guess that worked.

But since I don’t have that kind of cash, I suppose that I’ll have to be patient and wait for the brand to make its way up north. I’m sure I’ll eventually end up with a plateful of cheap pizza.

In the meantime, don’t even get me started on Sonic.

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