McD's Pit Bull Brouhaha a Perfect Storm of Loathsomeness

Bad Product, Ridiculous Copy, Ludicrous Protesters and a Questionable Resolution

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Every so often the universe presents the perfect package: an enterprise so monumentally loathsome that you can safely despise everyone involved.

The subprime crisis comes to mind. The Mideast peace process. The NFL lockout. Real Housewives of Anywhere. Aryan Nation. Congress.

Which brings me to the McDonald's commercial. The saga begins in Kansas City, Mo., where the local McDonald's franchisees ran a radio ad introducing the new Chicken McBites. Now, I don't know much, but I'm willing to bet my daughters' corneas that the agency brief mentioned McDonald's consumers' resistance to unfamiliar items. Here's the ad:

Voiceover 1: Trying a brand-new menu item at McDonald's isn't risky. You know what's risky? Petting a stray pit bull. Or shaving your head just to see how it would look. That's risky. Naming your son Sue? Super risky. Giving your friends your Facebook password? Ultra risky. So trying a new menu item at McDonald's is about a zero on the old Risker Scale.

Voiceover 2: Try a new Chicken McBites for free with a purchase of any Extra-Value Meal from January 30th through February 5

Voiceover 1: "New at McDonald's" means no risk, delicious reward.

See what I mean? Consumer trepidation must have been in the brief, or else why in the world would any copywriter use the word "risk" in the same freakin' solar system as the word "McDonald's?" The agency wants the client to buy advertising to remind people how eventually lethal this crap is ? Are they insane?

So that 's one reason to be disgusted with the ad's writers. A second reason is that the copy is cliché-ridden and deeply unfunny. A boy named Sue! Hahahaha! Baldness! LOL! Pit bulls! Dude, you're killin' me here!

Of course, maybe they deserve some benefit of the doubt, because they may not have had much by way of intrinsic product quality to focus on. Writing for the Huffington Post, food blogger -- and self-declared NON-McDonald's hater Eric R. Trinidad -- graded the McBite an F. Next to this new McDonald's answer to KFC's popcorn chicken, he concluded, gastronomically incorrect Chicken McNuggets are "are virtual filet mignons." He then meditated on the accumulating negativity attached to McPrefix ("associated with American conformity, capitalism or lowered standards") and the astonishing choice of the word "bites," which in the vernacular is a synonym for "sucks." Just amazing.

What wasn't amazing -- because it was as predictable as it is ludicrous -- was the next turn of events: squealing from the pit bull lobby. Yes, they were offended that once again their favorite dog was lazily associated with canine viciousness, and a Facebook petition drive was born. "Supporters of the breed, tired of seeing the dog they loved be vilified in the media . . .

"ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" they say.

Because, they insist, the idea of pit bulls being disproportionately dangerous is a media-propagated "myth." Why a myth? Because nobody can prove pit bulls bite disproportionately.

Which is true to the extent that there is no such thing as a dog census, and so nobody knows the population of individual breeds -- but which is obvious idiocy in the face of Centers for Disease Control statistics on dog-bite fatalities. Wanna get bitten by a dog and survive? Anger a Scottie or a black lab. Wanna be tossed and shaken, clamped in iron jaws till you die? Piss off a rottweiler or a pit bull.

But never mind reality. Naturally, the Pit Bulls Against McDonald's page immediately vacuumed in about 14,000 likes. By comparison, the Facebook page for Homs, Syria -- where the Assad regime is murdering civilians by the hundreds each week -- has attracted 3,121 likes.

Then, just when you began to think humanity could get no more disappointing, McDonald's announced it had caved.

"The ad was insensitive in its mention of pit bulls," the company announced in a press release. "We apologize. As soon as we learned of it, we tracked the source and had the local markets pull the ad immediately. We'll do a better job next time. It's never our intent to offend anyone with how we communicate news about McDonald's."

Uh huh. God forbid it should ignore any whining constituency anywhere, or insensitively stigmatize a dog -- although it's perfectly pleased to sensitively sell dog owners deep fried salted breading over two molecules of chicken.

Oh, by the way. Even the apology was a lie. Nobody "pulled" anything. The press release was issued Feb. 7. The Kansas City McBites promotion ended Feb. 5.

In short, as the man said to the pit bull: McBite me.

Bob Garfield, now a consultant, has reported on advertising, marketing and media for 28 years.
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