Living a lie

Living a lie

: McDonald’s put millions of dollars behind launching a “blog” and it’s a stupid, insulting waste.

On the Super Bowl, McDonald’s did a jokey commercial about a french fry shaped like Abe Lincoln. Fine. Dumb but fine. They put a url on the ad and it, eventually, leads to a fake blog.

Just this morning at iMedia, I told the publishers and marketers here that they should not make Dr. Pepper’s mistake when it made a cow blog for its milk-based soft drink.

This is a human medium, I said. It’s about people talking to people. We don’t want to talk to a cow; that’s as off-key as coming to a wedding dressed up like a pig. We don’t want you to lie to us and think we’re stupid and that we want to talk to a character a marketer made up.

Would your PR department have a cow or a fictional character call a reporter at The New York Times? No? Then why would you do that do your customers in their medium? Yes, of course, we are smart enough to know it’s your attempt at a joke. But you’re not smart enough to see that you’ve wasted our time. [via Steve Rubel]

  • Ray Juodaitis

    It’s about time people recognized that yes, blogs are a waste of time. Especially this one.
    Big Load Of Garbage

  • Tom Bushmaker

    “Would your PR department have a cow or a fictional character call a reporter at The New York Times?”
    If at all possible, YES! It would be appealing until dogs play card games of chance on TV!
    “But you’re not smart enough to see that you’ve wasted our time.”
    This got your attention and your comment! That is not a waste of time!

  • Mike

    So you’re insulted about this? Why? Were you forced to go to the website? What’s your beef really? That people could make fun of a medium that you find so important. So why not start a boycott of McDonald’s, stop crying, and let the market decide if that is insulting. I mean, that is your argument against the FCC for everything they decide.
    Don’t get me wrong, I think this medium is important as well, but come on, learn to lighten up.

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    I have to differ with the other commenters. This sounds to me less like blog snobbery and more like sound advice to a tonedeaf megacorporation from a media expert.
    Maybe something this dumb would be appropriate to delight children, but it fails badly at “delightful”. Perhaps if something more kid-friendly were used, like a LiveJournal (my Lincoln fry’s mood: crispy!), rather than a more stoic-looking blog layout. Also, a more whimsical writer… the posts are numbingly dull.
    Worse, if this was designed for adults, the blog fails in humor and succeeds in condescension. Again, a better writer… instead of a talentless committee cobbling together something *they* think is a laff riot.
    Look, McDonalds! I’ve got a french fry that looks exactly like Lincoln’s lower intestine!
    Some of the biggest corporations are responsible for some of the stupidest, wasteful websites, considering the money they have to buy talent. Sites that offer catalogs and recipes are fine, but all flash, fakery, and no substance *is* an insult to consumers. And I’ve sworn in blood to never again visit any website I’ve been directed to by a bottlecap.

  • http://www.masslive.com/weblogs/blogbeat/ Scott Brodeur

    I may be in the minority of folks who actually liked the MasterCard Super Bowl commercial, the one with all the animated pitchmen of yesteryear getting together for a “priceless” dinner.
    When I went to the MasterCard Web site today to view it again, it was nowhere to be found. In fact, the only Priceless campaign ad available there is the weird (and potentially offensive in this post-tsunami world) Twister one.
    http://www.mastercardinternational.com/newsroom/priceless_advertising.html
    You spend all that cash on a Super Bowl ad, you would think you would also get it up on your Web site in a prominent slot so fans can watch it again and then send a link to it to all their friends.
    I just don’t get the shortsightedness over there and the blown opportunity.

  • jeremy in NYC

    Scott: Try
    http://www.adage.com/news.cms?newsId=42479
    [registration required]

  • Angelos

    It’s annoying because it’s a typically phony attempt at being hip. You can just picture the old white men asking “what the kids are into these days…” Blogs? OK, let’s make a blog. That way we’ll be “hip”.
    Americans are so stupid.

  • Angelos

    As Lindsayism points out, “It even has FAKE COMMENTS by the couple’s FAKE FRIENDS (no other comments are allowed.)”
    It’s disheartening to see that this garbage is the best they could come up with.

  • http://www.papascott.de/ Scott Hanson

    Ironically, McDonald’s offices worldwide are closed today for a very human gesture… remembering their CEO Charlie Bell, who died of cancer last month.
    McD usually fails at presenting its human side to the public, though. This fake blog is just another example of, well, fake humanity.

  • None

    Old white men? Don’t take cheapshots at Jeff.

  • ozoid

    So McDonald’s put up a fake blog. There’s a lot of that going around. At least 3 syndicated columnists took money from the government and DoD is surreptitiously sponsoring news web sites. There’s even a distinct possibility that some agency just might be behind some of those blogs coming out of Iraq, especially if those bloggers actually get some presidential face-time.

  • http://lonewacko.com The Lonewacko Blog

    MasterCard
    Every time one of those commercials comes on I lunge for the remote.
    You can just picture the old white men
    I did, as a matter of fact. In fact, as I was watching McDonald’s TV commercial I could practically see the Oppression oozing from my screen. Why didn’t they consult with Bloggers of Color before running this ad? And, most importantly, how do we stop them? What can we do to evict LincolnFry from our beloved blogdom?
    I’ve already sent a sharply-worded letter of protest to LiveJournal, and I encourage you to do the same.

  • Ed Rusch

    > Dr. Pepper’s mistake when it made a cow blog for its milk-based soft drink.
    What a load of hooey — this didn’t affect Dr Pepper one iota. Mistake? Who cares? C’mon, Jeff: less than one-hundredth of one percent of the world cares aboout blogs, and even fewer care about your indignation.
    Your nose is out of joint because McDonald’s didn’t consult you on the Proper Use of Blogs.

  • http://michaelzimmer.blogspot.com/ Michael Zimmer

    Hmmm…capitalism appropriating a medium for its own end…interesting….

  • jeremy in NYC

    I’m more curious whether it works or not. I remember a lot of anger at the time Raging Cow was launched, but I thought that was because of the fact the they hid the fact that a bunch of other (real) blogs had been signed up by DR Pepper to push Raging Cow without disclosing their affiliation. I think the fake cow blog was secondary.
    But that said, does anyone know what the results were? I haven’t heard hide nor hair of Raging Cow since, but maybe they just don’t sell it here. Was there any spike/drop in sales after the blogs were launched,m or were they just an effectless dud?
    (Oh, and Ed – chill. I understand that something about Jeff Jarvis makes you quiver with rage and launch unsupported personal attacks, but somehow I didn’t think it would
    be the entry about McDonald’s).

  • http://www.hespos.com Tom Hespos

    I wrote my column about this topic early this morning and it will appear on Mediapost tomorrow.
    Basic gist of it…The ad would have worked better if it lived in broadcast alone. The web “integration” seems to be an afterthought. The broadcast seems to have fun at the expense of people who try to rake in bucks on auction sites by selling food items that look like deities/famous people/etc. The online component takes you in the exact opposite direction – trying to make the Lincoln Fry thing look cool with downloadable wallpaper(?!) buddy icons and the fake blog.

  • EverKarl

    “We don’t want you to lie to us and think we’re stupid and that we want to talk to a character a marketer made up.”
    Exactly.

  • Mork

    “Stupid” I get. But “insulting”? Someone’s being a wee bit precious, don’t you think?

  • http://www.gapingvoid.com hugh macleod

    I weep for my profession…

  • http://www.syracuse.com/newslogs/newstracker/ Brian Cubbison

    Consumers are often insulted by advertising. Smart advertisers try to see that it doesn’t happen. Marketing a company’s hipness backfires more often not. It’s a rare gift to do it well.
    Bloglike things are going to land all along a range of spontaneity. At one end, it’s institutional, mass-marketed, ghost-written public relations. A Betty Crocker blog. Jessica Simpson’s fanclub newsletter. A CEO’s blog that reads like a press release. At the other end, the individual, idiosyncratic, intimate diaries on Live Journal.
    The range might go like this: Advertising > marketing > lobbyists > activists > bankrolled bloggers and pundits > professional pundit class > major media editorial pages > the vast middle of active newsgathering > columnists who have a distinctive voice while working in the media > columnists and other media voices who blog outside their day jobs > news and political bloggers > war bloggers > pop culture bloggers > cat bloggers > diary keepers.
    This horizontal line doesn’t measure quality, just spontaneity or blogginess. There’s good and bad work all along this line. Sometimes it’s like Chutes and Ladders, though. An intense partisan blogger may step out of character and write something personal. A teenager writing in a Live Journal diary may find herself part of a news event and write about it, and it shows up among her intimacies. And yes, the people who brought you Burger King’s Herb and the annoying Wendy’s guy will keep shooting for coolness and miss.

  • N Kittleson

    I’ve got to agree with Tom Hespos…this worked fine for a commercial. in fact, given all of the ridiculous items for sale on Ebay recently, i found it amusing. Like he said, where it fell apart was the fake blog. I think McDonald’s would have done better to have created a real blog supporting the ad and promoting the auction of the fry prop for charity. At the same time, they could have used the blog to tie into their other charitable efforts. They lost the opportunity to do some good in exchange for a fake website with stupid downloads.
    To continue the thought, there is an auction for the prop so the “illusion” of the of the story is shattered once you reach the auction which then, at least for me, caused me to wonder if the bid was even legitimate. If they’ve conjured up everything else, could McDonald’s be guilty of then pushing up the price of the auction for publicity as well?

  • http://www.randomculture.com John Keehler

    Constructive criticism of this “Lincoln Fry” campaign should be that their execution was poor and not well thought out… not because they launched a “fake” blog…
    Of course the blog is fake!!!!!!
    Did you think that the characters in the commercial were REAL people?
    Plain and simple, it’s fiction, just like you’d read a story about a fictional character in a book. Raging Cow wasn’t ACTUALLY written by a cow, and Dr. Pepper didn’t think people would believe it was…

  • Paul Barba

    Blogs are modern day soap boxes where computer geeks grow keyboard muscles and let everyone who hits their site know how they feel about politics, entertainment or whatever subject they want to empty their spleen about or whatever ass they want to kiss…

  • Allen Q. Aida

    Please, please don’t out the McDonalds bloggers! Now they too might be co-opted by the CIA and we will have to kill them!

  • EverKarl

    That’s good.

  • keithus

    You didnt mind listening to Bushs lies in his war run up but now youre all up in arms over a cartoon.

  • jeremy in NYC

    Yeah! And you stole all of keithus’ apostrophes!