CHICAGO, February 7, 2012— Looking on the McDonald’s generated media uproar last week, they just can’t get a break. If it’s not the food police, local politicians, or pseudo-scientific advocacy groups attacking them, it’s some marginal rock thrower.
The icon Ronald McDonald has come under attack by various groups as a symbol of something evil and insidious.
This time McDonald’s angered a fringe advocacy group, who naturally wanted free publicity and money. Legal extortion is a wonderful thing. McDonald’s ran a radio ad claiming there was little risk to eating their Chicken McBites.
McDonald’s ran the radio spot in the Kansas City area claiming that eating a Chicken McBite is less risky than petting a pit bull, shaving your head, naming your son Sue, or giving your password to Facebook to friends.
Once again, social media and Internet advocates went ballistic.
It was made very apparent that “insinuating” food safety in an advertisement is “ stupid, offensive and reckless.” McDonald’s caved, apologized immediately, and pulled the ad. But, an apology is not enough.
Pit bull advocacy groups are barking mad over the advertisement and they want donations to their cause as restitution for McDonald’s insensitivity. Naturally, a Facebook page was created, Pit Bulls Against McDonald’s. Social media went nuclear.
McDonald’s was accused of creating an unfair image of dogs and false advertising. The response and attack was fast, furious, fierce, and apoplectic. Thousands of people who liked the page demanded McDonald’s make donations to pit bull advocacy groups and/or use a pit bull in their advertising.
Imagine a pit bull happily chomping away on a McBite, while the owner deposits a big fat check in the bank.
Using corporate “insensitivity” as a hook, advocacy groups find new ways to publicize their causes for free and make money when deep pockets, like McDonalds, offers some affront - real or imagined.
The methodology is always the same. The advocacy groups find a victim who is pliable and using the power of a bully pulpit, bashes, denigrates, and bring them to their knees.
It is a very effective tactic, especially in the target rich social media environment. Advocates don’t care who they harm as long as they get what they want.
Non-profits do it, politicians do it, and lovers and haters of all stripes do it. It works, it is legal, and it brings in tons of free publicity and money. It has been reported that Planned Parenthood, after their attack against Komen for the Cure, saw a $3 million increase in donations, almost four times the amount of the Komen grant.
What these groups do is wage legal extortion and intimidation. It is dishonest and disingenuous. It works like a charm. It is admirable for its effectiveness.
Successful entities always do what is effective.
Advertisers and corporation do have to be socially and sensitivity aware. They can no longer design their marketing for the sole purpose of advertising, selling products. Advertising must be designed to cater to the ever changing sensitivity of a fickle public, which includes advocacy groups.
The problem here is not that McDonald’s should not malign the pit bull, for there are many, many great dogs in the breed. But the way the advocacy groups are using these errors to increase donations and extort money.
How do I know this? When the NFL paved the way for Michael Vick’s return to the league, where were the groups then? Vick was implicated in an interstate dog-fighting ring. Some of the accusations included torture and execution of dogs. Vick pleaded guilty. Why didn’t they excoriate, intimidate, and extort the NFL upon his return to the league?
Bottom line is that there was some noise, but the NFL did not care how loud they would yell, so there was no money to be made. As far as many were concerned, Vick paid the price, continues to do good works for dogs and spreads the message that dog fighting is barbaric.
It is virtually impossible to communicate anything in the current environment without offending someone. But, claiming that a humorous ad offends dogs is really childish, simple minded, and goes beyond the pale.
Disclaimer: The author does not eat McDonald’s, has a canine companion, never feeds his canine fast food, and treats his dog like a dog, not an overly sensitive human being. The cruelly insensitive dog treats his human like an idiot.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance writer and photographer, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone.
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