If you were around in 1997, you might recall seeing this Pizza Hut ad featuring the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev was a reformist who opened the door to peaceful revolution, yet represented the Communist Party to the end. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union brought perilous economic turbulence that affected Gorbachev as well as millions of everyday Russians. By the mid-90s, he needed money. And Pizza Hut, which had stepped into the Soviet Union just before it ended, saw an opportunity.
The concept obviously exploited the shock value of having a former world leader appear. But the ad played on the fact that Gorbachev was far more popular outside Russia than inside it. As late as October 1991, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed that 54 percent of Americans wanted to see Gorbachev as the head of the Soviet Union, compared with only 18 percent for Yeltsin. And warm feelings toward Gorbachev persisted in the West long after the Soviet Union dissolved. “In contrast to his unpopular standing at home,” the political scientist Andrew Cooper writes in Diplomatic Afterlives, “Gorbachev retained superstar standing abroad as a visionary statesman.” At home, Gorbachev was a pariah. Abroad, he was an elder statesman and celebrity, far more beloved than the buffoonish Yeltsin.Still, getting Gorbachev to promote pizza was a complicated story, which you can read at Foreign Policy. (via Damn Interesting)