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McDonald's: Pit Bull-McBites Risk Comparison Not Meant To Be Offensive


First Posted: 02/ 6/2012 3:47 pm Updated: 02/ 7/2012 11:48 am

UPDATE: The AP's Sue Manning wrote a great piece on the McDonald's-Pit Bull controversy, focusing on divergent reactions within the highly vocal community of pit bull owners. Here's what she wrote:

LOS ANGELES — McDonald's has apologized and pulled an ad that came back to bite it.

The ad said eating a Chicken McBite was less risky than petting a stray pit bull, shaving your head, naming your son Sue or giving friends your Facebook password. It enraged pit bull owners and their supporters.

The radio ad for Chicken McBites only ran for a few days in the Kansas City area before the complaints started. The campaign against the ad circulated on social media sites, and the apology was delivered the same way. People who called a well-publicized toll-free number got a recorded apology.

"The ad was insensitive in its mention of pit bulls. 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," Ashlee Yingling, spokesman for McDonald's Corp., said Monday, quoting from the apology.

"I found it extremely offensive and reckless," said Rachele Lizarraga of Sacramento. "Why would you try to promote the safety of food?"

Lizarraga, who owns a pet-sitting business and is social media coordinator for Chako Pit Bull Rescue, started a Facebook page called "Pit Bulls Against McDonald's," launched an online petition calling for an end to the ad and started one of many Twitter threads.

Many of the 8,200-plus people who liked the Facebook page said an apology wasn't enough – they wanted a donation to some pit bull organizations and a McDonald's ad featuring a pit bull.

Others thought the apology was enough.

"We are just asking them to promote positive pit bull imagery. We are not asking for donations. I don't think that should be a demand," Lizarraga said.

"It was stupid marketing, playing into the media hysteria about pit bulls," she added.

"The McDonald's response was immediate, unambiguous and apologetic – not sure what more anyone could ask. I'll soon be ordering those McBites, and likely lovin' it," radio host and syndicated pet columnist Steve Dale wrote Sunday.

The campaign against the ad built swiftly and fiercely Friday. Then the ad disappeared, except on YouTube and online.

It was not a national radio ad, Yingling said. "Working with the local market, we took immediate action to pull the ad and apologized for the mistake. Again, it's never our intent to offend anyone," she said.

She did not say if McDonald's would be making any pit bull rescue donations or making an ad with a pit bull.

"I am pleased that they pulled the ad after their customers spoke out about it. Not all companies listen so closely to their customers so I appreciate that they did – and so quickly," said Stephanie Filer, communications manager for the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and a member of ARL Pit Crew Club.

She posted an illustration, showing a box of McDonald's Chicken McNuggets and a pit bull laying on its back with the caption "Which is safer? Eating this? Petting this?"

She also posted a photo of herself and her pit bull named Freedom with a word bubble describing the ad. It read: "Hey McDonalds – I created an ad on Facebook that went viral today, on behalf of the ARL Pit Crew Club because my pit bull was a STRAY."

Laura Goldman, senior social media writer for ilovedogs.com, was one of the first to post about the ad. Friday was the second highest traffic day ever on their website, said Goldman, who has two rescued pit bulls of her own.

"It made me really angry. It seemed like a stupid advertising campaign, insinuating eating their food is risky. I would rather pet a million stray pit bulls that eat one pink slimy Chicken McBite," she said.

EARLIER: McDonald's took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to say sorry to the latest group to be upset by its actions: pit bull owners.

The fast food chain had included "petting a stray pit bull" in a list of things riskier than "trying a new menu item at McDonald's" in a radio ad for McBites, its new fried chicken entree, angering pit bull owners across the country. More than 8,000 fans of the dog breed joined a Facebook group called "Pit Bulls Against McDonald's." McDonald's, eager to avoid angering rabid fans of pit bulls and popcorn chicken any further, decided to pull the ad.

The PR politics are such that McDonald's probably had no choice but to apologize; the net benefit of the ad could not possibly have outweighed the cost of the campaign against them on the part of pit bull owners. But all the hullaballoo seems a little extreme as the ad (audio available below) was clearly tongue-in-cheek. Fast food companies have less than spotless food safety records, and the McBite has not been getting good reviews from early tasters, but McBites also can't bite you.

The pit bull comparison was just one of four made in the radio ad. It also claims that "shaving your hair just to see what it would like like," "naming your son Sue" and "giving your friends your Facebook password" are riskier than eating McBites.

Listen to the McDonald's radio ad below:

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Filed by Joe Satran  |  Report Corrections