Back in the old days of the Soviet Union, there were often crazy lines for things that we'd take for granted in the United States: food, televisions, winter coats, apartments.

Heck, visas to leave the Soviet Union. 

Domino's Pizza wasn't in Russia back then, but a single franchisee now apparently has countrywide rights to both Russia and Turkey. And when the company launched an ambitious marketing contest in Russia, it was totally unprepared for the response.

The pitch? Get a Domino's logo tattoo, and you get free Domino's for life.

Russian fans took them up on it--at a rate that suggested more than a million young Russians might soon be sporting three-dot dominos in permanent ink--far above the 350 or so brave souls the Russian Domino's had expected.

So many that Domino's had to cancel the planned two-month promotion after just a few days.

"Russian social media was flooded with Domino's pizza tattoos, and basically, Domino's pizza was not ready to give out that many pizza gift certificates," said Katherine Zeveleva of BBC in Moscow.

The rules as posted on the Domino's page on VKontakte, which is basically the Russian version of Facebook, were pretty simple:

  • Get a real tattoo of the Domino's logo, at least .7 inches long, on a visible part of the body.
  • Then, post it online on social media with a hashtag (#dominosforever, only in Russian), and get 100 free pizzas per year for the next 100 years.

Sure enough, if you search Twitter or Instagram with that hashtag now, you'll find hundreds of photos--even though the contest is officially over.

A simple qualifying tattoo of the chain's logo ran about the equivalent of $30, and while "tattoos in Russia have long been associated with criminals," The Wall Street Journal reported, they've become a lot more popular and acceptable recently, as part of a broad assimilation of American hipster culture." 

All of which made it far too tempting to trade a square inch or two of skin in exchange for potentially 10,000 pizzas--and which led Domino's to cancel the whole thing with a few hours' warning.

"We are waiting for pictures before 12:00 today," they wrote on VK on the day they canceled the whole thing. "For those getting tattoos later, we recommend canceling the appointment, because unfortunately we will not be able to include you."

"After all, this is Russia," one Russian woman who got the tattoo and got her free pizza certificate before things closed told the Journal. "Who doesn't want free food?

Published on: Sep 18, 2018
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