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January 31, 2009

The Worst Website I’ve Ever Seen

“This is the McChicken Sandwich. As soon as you leave, I’m going to go T. Rex on this thing.” – Paul

McDonald's does many things right, starting with their French fries, which are the international gold standard of fried potatoes. I have also commented in the past on their delicious Southwest salad. The McFlurry? McFuckable. Their food, with some notable exceptions (I’m looking at you McGriddle), is fantastic.

Where McDonald's consistently falls short, however, is in their marketing. Jesus they’ve got horrible marketing. Anybody who has ever seen a McDonald's commercial featuring rapping Chicken McNuggets knows what I am talking about.


(Pay special attention to the pop rocking Ronald McDonald)

McDonald's has a knack for appropriating the national zeitgeist and then getting it exactly and perfectly wrong. How they manage to so consistently mangle pop culture is beyond me, but they’ve been doing it so long that it seems to be part of their corporate DNA.

The way I interpret their marketing strategy is that they scour the landscape for trends, and then figure out a way to wring all the joy and authenticity out of whatever they find before presenting it to you, the consumer, as advertising.

So maybe it should come as no surprise that the good people at McDonald's are at it again. This time, they’re promoting their dollar menu with an animated web series entitled “(Dollar Menu presents) The Reality House Show.” You probably read the words “McDonalds animated web series/reality show parody” and think to yourself, “That sounds horrible.” Well you would be wrong to think that. Horrible doesn’t begin to describe how truly atrocious this thing is. I’ve never seen a more blatant and contrived example of corporate pandering in my life.


The idea, I suppose, was to appeal to the significant stoner demographic who spend most of their time watching Frisky Dingo marathons on Adult Swim. After all, these people have to eat too, and they most likely do not have a lot of money for the simple reason that they are high almost all of the time. So that was Step 1 – identifying the market.

Step 2 was undoubtedly a long meeting attended by various executives half-listening to the person giving the presentation and half playing with their BlackBerrys. At some point, somebody probably said, “Hey, stoners like cartoons. We should make a cartoon.” And somebody else probably said, “That’s a great idea, Dan.” (In my fictional retelling of this story, it was a guy named Dan who came up with this idea.) And then somebody else chimed in, “We could do a whole web series.” And then they all said, “Yeah, it’ll go viral!”

A word about viral video: I have been involved with enough people in the advertising world to know how much they love trendy buzzwords; these are words like “vertical integration,” “synergy,” and “push marketing.” They all mean the same thing: “If I say these buzzwords people will think I know what I’m talking about and I will not lose my job.” The latest buzzword is “viral video.” We all know what viral videos are – videos that spring from nowhere and then go on to infect the electronic ether with their hilarity. (Or tragedy. Or whatever. Usually hilarity.) The thing about viral videos, though, is that they’re very hard to create. The reason people like them is for their authenticity. As soon as anybody smells a whiff of phoniness, the thing dies a gruesome death. But that hasn’t stopped every fucking corporation in the world from attempting to create one. Undoubtedly some have succeeded, but if you are ever in a room where some executive goes, “Yeah, it’ll go viral,” you should take that as your cue to get up and go running for the exits because that person is a moron and if you stay there you might catch their moron disease.

Step 3 was every moron in that room agreeing that they would make a hilarious viral video. The problem, of course, is that McDonald's has never created anything even remotely hilarious. Touching they can do. You know, Special Olympians ordering fries and getting hugs. Stuff like that. Hilarious, not so much. But the Adult Swim stoner demographic likes to giggle, so they needed their “content” to be funny. Idea: cartoon fake reality show. Great, great idea. And except for the fact that I can think of at least two identical shows (“Total Drama Island” and “Drawn Together”) it’s also a totally original concept.

Step 4 is execution. Admittedly they had already jumped the shark by the time they got to Step 2, but Step 4 is where it got truly gruesome. Right off the bat there is the web design, which clues you in to the fact that you’re about to undergo a terrible viewing experience. The first thing you notice is the big fucking McDonald's logo. Then, in case that’s too subtle, the bottom third of the screen is filled with photographs of dollar menu items. This is what a cheeseburger looks like! This is what a chicken sandwich looks like! What is the color palette for the website? Surprisingly, red and gold.

Our host is a guy named Paul who introduces himself as the “Dollar Menuaire.” He looks like a cross between Carlos Santana and Weird Al. Everything about him screams, “I was instructed to do this voice-over in a way that tells everybody ‘I’m not trying too hard,’” and yet in his not-trying-too-hard, he is trying so very, very hard. After introducing himself, Paul tells us to “check out the drama” and also to “check out the food.” That sounds like fun - checking out pictures of food. 

Following Paul’s advice, I rolled over the photograph of the “McDouble,” which to my eye looks like a lot like a cheeseburger. When I did so, I was informed that I could “hear about it.” Naturally I wanted to hear whatever I could about this product, so I clicked. The cartoon image was replaced by an even larger picture of the McDouble. In other words, it was a commercial for McDonald's WITHIN THE COMMERCIAL FOR MCDONALD'S.

This is what the Dollar Menuaire told me about this particular dollar menu item:

“The McDouble. It’s my new love. All the excitement of dating a new lady who looks a lot like your ex.”

WHAT? What does that mean? He tells me about it, sure, but in such a way that I have no fucking clue what he’s talking about.

I repeated the process with the cup of soda. When I rolled over it, it reads “soft drink – hear about it.” Hear about soft drink? I’m in.

“Ah the soft drink. This is for all the thirsty kids in the crowd. You know, uh, once you get the cup. It’s okay to experiment. Me? I like two parts root beer and one part Sprite. I call it The Clear Root.”

At that point I wanted to yell at Paul because I didn’t believe him. I did not believe that he called anything “The Clear Root,” didn’t believe that he experimented with soda pop, and didn’t understand what he meant about soda being for thirsty kids once they get the cup.

I will leave it to you to hear about “side salad,” which involves Paul’s inner eye.

The show itself is not funny. Maybe I didn’t need to make that point because it was self-evident, but I feel the need to state the obvious just in case somebody read this post and thought that my omission of stating that the show was unfunny in some way implied that the show was funny. It is not. It is the opposite of funny. But it isn’t serious. If it were serious it would be dramatic, which it is not. Serious isn’t the opposite of funny. Painful isn’t even the opposite. If it’s possible to rape somebody with humor that’s what this show is. I watched all of episode 1 and struggled through part of Episode 2. But I couldn’t get all the way through. Keep in mind that each episode is about two and a half minutes long. For me to not be able to get through is really saying a lot, especially considering I watched three minutes of a guy doing donuts with his car on YouTube earlier today.

I hate having to identify a single worst part about this experience but if I have to, I will refer you to the “cast bios,” where you can learn even more about the characters on the show. For example, there’s Tiffany, the hot blonde who likes “boys, fruit ‘n yogurt parfait (dollar menu item) and exfoliants.” Lest you think McDonalds paints all blondes with the same thick brush, however, her bio states that she is “straight from her third tour as a HALO jumper for the special forces.”  Really?

Is there a Goth girl? You know it. Is there a gay guy? I don’t know, but Ben’s profile says his hobbies are “hair styles, advertising, fashions, and painting.” I especially like that “fashions” is pluralized. As much as they don’t want to stereotype blondes, they have no trouble doing it for gay guys.

But the best (worst) cast bio is for the black guy, Marcus. His favorite Dollar Menu item? McChicken. Is that fried? It is. In other words, the black guy’s favorite food is fried chicken. But again, lest you think McDonald’s is engaged in stereotyping, check out this quote from his bio:

“After graduating summa cum laude from Michigan University, Marcus landed a job at Deloitte & Touche and has been with the company ever since.” Get it? Black people are smart! Black people can get good jobs and keep them! Get it? Get it?

There is even more to explore on this website, like the “havin’ fun” button, which takes you to their ethnic page. On the left hand side is a bar with tabs that read “Myinspirasian,” “MeEncanta,” and my favorite, “365 Black.” If you think that one’s for people who are black 365 days a year, you are right. I clicked on it. It shows me a picture of a Baobab tree which contains the best quote I have ever, ever read, which I reprint in its entirety.

“I once heard a story…
‘Whatever blooms from the Baobab
Is given back to the earth, because the
Mighty tree never forgets its roots.’”
Like the mighty Baobab,
McDonald’s and I will not be moved.

Let me repeat that last couplet, because it’s brilliant – “Like the mighty Baobab, McDonald’s and I will not be moved.” Again - WHAT??? McDonald’s will not be moved? When did McDonald’s refuse to ride the buses in Montgomery? When did McDonald’s get hosed and attacked by dogs? I don’t remember Ronald McDonald standing next to Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. What the fuck are they talking about? You’re McDonald’s. You are not a protest movement. You make Shamrock Shakes. You are not for social change. You are for Happy Meals. Shut the fuck up.

Anyway, enjoy the website. I know I did. It took up my entire day. 

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gatto

How the hell do you find these things, Michael?

Susanna

OMG, I am totally in hysterics over here!!! Tears of pure unadulterated joy!! This is probably not what I should be doing at 1 AM, but I am so very glad I clicked on your blog and your link to that website before heading to bed! At this rate, I'll be up checking out that website all night. Synergy, dude. *FIST POUND*

max brooks

Shamrock Shake reference.

Nick

Best parts =
Tiffany's Hobbies...Juice...how is that a hobby?

And Ben works at a place called Weiner Cuts....really?!

Aaron

Is this blog entry some sort of meta viral marketing technique?

Serrano

Yeah, I think this blog will generate more McDonald's sales than that website.

Mark Garcia

This was the best blog entry ever (excluding the halloween one).

Johnny Hugel

Wow, that made my brain hurt. A moment after arriving at the site your buddy Paul had two heads and was talking over himself. In the video window both "Episode 1" and the ad for the hamburger were playing. I know that the Firefox browser on a Mac may be a little "out there" for MickeyD's but hey, that's what the stoner demographic uses.

I know you gotta do what you gotta do, so If anyone I respect had a part in this I hope they're enjoying their new jetskis.

Chase Roper

Perfect explanation of why people use the word "viral."

On your next post, can you go into Burger King's new Angry Whopper? I already feel guilty for eating fast food in the first place. Now I have to know that my food has an emotional disposition?

Jaime

>>>If it’s possible to rape somebody with humor that’s what this show is.

I just blurbble-sploded parfait all over my monitor. Not really. But if I were eating a parfait, I would have, and what a mess!

You're hilarious.

me again

Maybe McDonald's doesn't feel the need to be wildly inventive because they're fucking McDonald's. Everyone on planet Earth knows what a chicken McNugget is. They'll let Burger King go off and do the spectacularly weird (and dare I say brilliant?) stuff. Their strategy probably puts more money into the happy meal set, so the kiddies will stick with 'em for life. That website is like my middle-aged uncle being on Facebook, trying to be cool. Not happening.

PS - Maybe McDonald's should pick a fight with David Sedaris. It works for some people.

Brendan

Ugh...holy God you were right about everything. It was borderline impossible to watch this "show"...It's like watching a piece of paper while being stabbed in the back of the face with a chainsaw/ninja katana. It's so boring and so insanely painful. And how exactly does this make me want to go to McDonald's?

Brendan

Haha I just noticed that I have the option to "Share this on:
Mixx,reddit,Digg,StumbleUpon,Facebook,Myspace
,del.cio.us, and Google Bookmarks"

Which I am totally doing right now because of the amount of hilariousness brought on by this show. It's impossible that they actually expected people to make this a "viral video", it's too awful.

Bailey

I like how Marcus dislikes "The Reality House Show."

Meg

Frankly, I found this reality show easier to watch than Reality Bites Back. Does that make me a bad person?

Pudenda Shenanigans

Well, I think the R. Kelly-inspired McDonald's commercial where the gal steals away in the middle of the night to cheat on her man by buying some golden, hot, deep-fried McNugget Love borders on awesome. But they clearly must have known that it's terrible. It's a parody of something that's viral but pathetic in the first place.

This commercial is kind of fascinating if I think about it too long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYRDSniLVZo

Pudenda Shenanigans

Well, I think the R. Kelly-inspired McDonald's commercial where the gal steals away in the middle of the night to cheat on her man by buying some golden, hot, deep-fried McNugget Love borders on awesome. But they clearly must have known that it's terrible. It's a parody of something that's viral but pathetic in the first place.

This commercial is kind of fascinating if I think about it too long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYRDSniLVZo

Pudenda Shenanigans

Well, I think the R. Kelly-inspired McDonald's commercial where the gal steals away in the middle of the night to cheat on her man by buying some golden, hot, deep-fried McNugget Love borders on awesome. But they clearly must have known that it's terrible. It's a parody of something that's viral but pathetic in the first place.

This commercial is kind of fascinating if I think about it too long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYRDSniLVZo

Pudenda Shenanigans

Well, I think the R. Kelly-inspired McDonald's commercial where the gal steals away in the middle of the night to cheat on her man by buying some golden, hot, deep-fried McNugget Love borders on awesome. But they clearly must have known that it's terrible. It's a parody of something that's viral but pathetic in the first place.

This commercial is kind of fascinating if I think about it too long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYRDSniLVZo

Pudenda Shenanigans

I'm sorry my computer hiccupped.

But I really, really want to be heard.

Camille

Haha! I never thought the McGriddle was a good idea.
I don't even need to watch it after your thorough description,which I imagine is much funnier than the real thing. Also,it would have taken about two hours to load.
("Is she still going on about not having high speed???" Yes. She is.)

A Bz

lolol. The website reads like one big joke to me!

Jaime

Meg! yes. Shame.

;p

Reen

Brilliant. (As usual).

Kendra

i personally like how Ben works at "weiner cuts", further playing on the suggested gayness

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