Slang Word in New Pizza Patrón Ads Generates Controversy

Once again, Pizza Patrón’s promotions are stirring up controversy. This time, the hoopla is around the Dallas-based company’s new Spanish-language radio ads. Ads feature the word “chignón,” often considered a curse word in Mexican slang.

But the word has multiple meanings. By some accounts, it signifies “awesome,” “amazing” or “bad ass.” Others say it is a synonym of the F-word. And according to Real Academia Española, the institution that oversees the Spanish language, “chignón” is defined as follows: chingón, na. 1. adj. street slang. Méx. "Said of a person who is competent in an activity or knowledgeable in a specific area."

When Pizza Patrón crated the ads, it was focusing on the first afore-mentioned meanings. But several radio stations thought differently and refused to run the ads. Pizza Patrón said it had planned to air them beginning March 31.

The product, La Ch!#gona, is a large pizza with about 90 slices of proprietary jalapeño stuffed pepperonis topped with fresh, diced jalapeños. Available for a limited time, the pizza’s recommended price is $7.99.

According to a statement on Pizza Patrón’s web site, ads feature different personalities who express why they are “chignón” enough to try the spicy new pizza. Richards/Lerma, a Dallas-based Hispanic agency, was hired by Pizza Patrón and asked to create ads that “speak Mexican” to the brand’s core, Mexican-born customer base.

"Mexican slang and humor are very particular, and we applaud Pizza Patrón for connecting with their core consumers at a very deep level, avoiding stereotypes,” said Aldo Quevedo, principal and creative director for Richards/Lerma, in the statement. “The brand speaks the same way they do, I mean, WE do!"

Edgar Padilla, marketing manager for Pizza Patrón and the creative mind behind the La Ch!#gona campaign, said "colloquialism," "picardía" (street-wise humor) and "censorship" are common traits in Mexican culture. "These same characteristics are essential to the foundation of our campaign whose objective is to speak directly to our customer’s heart. We understand and know who we are targeting and make no excuses – Pizza Patrón is a brand for La Raza (the people)."

Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón, added that the same networks banning the ads regularly feature songs and talk-show dialogue “that is much more risqué than anything we are doing."
Austin, Texas-based Spanish radio station "La Z" said it will play the commercial sans the pizza’s name. "It has to be bleeped, we’re not going to air it unfiltered, for sure," Rupe, VP of programming and operations at Emmis Communications, told Fox News Latino.

Like English-speaking TV and radio stations, LaZ is bound by Federal Communications Commission rules. But the lines are blurry when it comes to what can and cannot be said in Spanish. Violating FCC rules can cost stations thousands of dollars. Pizza Patrón said it does not plan on changing the pizza’s name.

In 2007, the restaurant chain also stirred up controversy when it began accepting Mexican pesos at some locations. It informed customers about this with an ad campaign that included the Mexican flag and the slogan “Welcome, countryman” in Spanish. Part of the goal, said Pizza Patrón, was to allow people returning from visits home to Mexico to unload foreign currency. The company was accused of being anti-American and even received death threats.

Five years later, for three hours on a Tuesday evening in June, all restaurants gave away free pizza to anybody who ordered it in Spanish. This also annoyed many people.