Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pizza Can be Bad for Your Mental Health

Last night I broke down and ordered pizza. I know, I said I was going to stop eating crap and work out constantly, but I really, really didn’t want to go to the grocery store. Then, instead of ordering decent pizza, I ordered two large Papa John’s pizzas.

When they arrived, I was greeted by the Papa himself who immediately reminded me that he was in my house. No, it wasn’t a commercial being filmed at my front door as a publicity stunt, it was on the box, printed right there in the upper left corner:

Let’s think about that for a second: When Papa’s in the house... Everything’s simply better!

I realized that someone who has my job (creative writer for a business) had to agonize over this phrase for quite some time. I lost my appetite. There’s only two ways that this phrase could have ended up being printed on the box:
  1. One guy, like me, sat at his computer and thought up a hundred different phrases, which were then trimmed down by the boss, and eventually he/she had to finalize the wording after untold hours of reading that phrase over and over again.
  2. This is the one that REALLY makes me cringe and want to rip off my own skin, and I’m afraid it’s the likely situation. I imagine a whole room of people deciding on a phrase collectively in one of the most unbearable moments possible. It probably went something like this:
EXEC 1: We need a phrase that really tells the people why ordering our pizza should make them feel good.
WRITER 1: I was thinking something like, “When you order from Papa, you’ll be happy you did!”
WRITER 2: No, no, we need something more like “When you order from Papa, good stuff happens!”
EXEC 2: That sounds great. Well, we’ve got a 2 o’clock tee-off time, so just text me the phrase when it’s done. AND MAKE IT GOOD OR YOU’RE ALL FIRED.

Four hours later...

WRITER 7: Ok, ok, “When Papa’s in the house... everything’s better!”
WRITER 4: I like it, I like it, but it lacks a certain pizazz...

Two hours later...

WRITER 6: Ok, so we all agree to add “simply” between “everything’s” and “better,” right?
EVERYONE (inside their heads): PLEASE KILL ME NOW

I decided to do a little research to try to learn more about the origins of this phrase, when I came across this online menu:

The quotes around “Papa’s in the House” lead me to believe that this is part of some massive marketing campaign centered around that phrase. In fact, there’s clearly a bit of disconnect between the marketing department and the designers, who were told to use the slogan at the top of the menu. Without the quotes, the entire sentence would appear less forced, artificial, and all-around markety.

Then I discovered this sentence written into a daily deal on YET ANOTHER DAILY DEALS SITE.

Manic Monday? Not when Papa’s in the house. Yes, that’s right, getting pizza from Papa John’s will fix your entire day. Probably about as effectively as a bottle of Jack Daniels. (By the way, DealsNear.Me would get horribly stomped in the Deathmatch for World Coupon Dominance.)

So who is ultimately responsible for Papa repeatedly invading my house? Obviously there’s someone out there who is the face of marketing for the company, who’s happy to soullessly spew this phrase in random sentences to the press, right?

Andrew Varga. I can’t blame him for doing it; it’s second nature to him. He’s on autopilot. He probably brings home free Papa John’s to his family every night while yelling, “Papa’s in the house!” Of course, his kids think he’s talking about himself, but he’s really just repeating the phrase like a parrot.

“Hey kids, family game night is more fun when Papa’s in the house,” he’ll say to them, while wielding a Wiimote.

“It sure is, dad,” his daughter will say in-between bowling matches, “It sure is.”

Then I imagined Papa John's training sessions with a bunch of prospective pizza chefs sitting with shaved heads in a sterile concrete room watching a grainy training video of a closeup on John Schnatter himself saying, in an eerily soothing tone and with a big smile, "When Papa's in the house... Everything's simply better."

Everything's simply better... Everything's simply better... Everything's simple better...

As I snapped back into reality after staring at the pizza box for what felt like five minutes, my wife stared at me with a confused look.

“Are you okay?” she asked me.

“Sorry, I was just thinking about how stupid this phrase is,” I responded. Most people probably just ignore these kinds of things as if they don’t exist. It’s actually a bit surprising to me that they event print stuff like this on the box. Did anyone look down and see that everything was simply better and then say to themselves, “Yeah, you know what? My problems have all vanished. Now that Papa’s in the house, I can stop thinking about how much I hate life”?

When I worked at Pizza Hut in the 90s, one of my duties was folding boxes. Yes, I’d have to stand in one spot for up to an hour folding pizza boxes and stacking them behind the cut table. I always read those boxes out of pure boredom and laughed at the stupid phrases printed on them.

“If I ever go into marketing, I’ll just shoot myself,” I said on more than one occasion. “Those people are the scum of the Earth.”

I was wrong. Marketing people aren’t the scum of the Earth, and neither is the chief marketing officer. They just don’t know what they’re doing. They’re like mindless zombies, forced to sit in a room and agonize over word placement until arriving at the most inane phrase possible, then they repeat it like a broken record for however long the campaign continues.

At least they’ve discovered the solution to all of their problems: Just let Papa into the house.

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