• Radio Diplomacy

Gorbachev and Pizza Hut

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

Pizza Hut in Moscow. The snow-powdered onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral iconically fill the background.

There is no situation where I envisioned Mikhail Gorbachev, Gospodin Glasnost himself, eating at a Pizza Hut, much less one in Moscow, much less eating at a Pizza Hut in Moscow in a commercial for the formerly Pepsi-owned chain. Yet, all these things (and more!) happen in this incredible 60-second spot. Rarely do I label something as a 'must-watch', but this is definitely on the list which I'm starting... now.

A Radio Diplomacy Must-Watch #1 (and #2)

Did you watch it? Great. Go ahead, watch it again. It's worth your time...

Hopefully, you fully appreciate the quality of this commercial, no matter where you stand on politics and pizza, but let's go through it step by step.

1) Snowy Russia. Gorbachev battles the elements in a heavy overcoat, his head down and hand holding tight to his granddaughter. Gorbachev=USSR. Granddaughter=Russian Federation. Notice how the music grabs us, sounding very grand and imperial Russian (Tchaikovsky, perhaps) but also very Aaron Copland, especially once we enter the Pizza Hut.

2) Once inside, Gorbachev's granddaughter lights up with sparkling eyes, telling us that inside the "restaurant" it's nice and toasty and that she can't wait to get some of that cheesy American pie. Just look how everyone is seated so close together, so cozily.

3) People start noticing Gorbachev: first the old dedushka who has only negative things to say, then the molodoy chelovek who has that post-Soviet vibe about him, and then the babushka.

4) The real kicker is of course when the elderly woman says dramatically, in a manner that we're sure will yield agreement with the old man's harsh censure, "Thanks to Gorbachev... we have Pizza Hut." And nothing brings people together on a wintry day like a hot Meat Lover's Supreme. Right?

(Note: Pizza Hut in Russia filed for bankruptcy in early 2017 due to rising costs and lower revenue.)

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