Monday, January 25, 2010

Having a bad day? Consider Ronald's

If corporate life increasingly feels like having your arms pinned back while people line up to punch you in the gut, consider the agita that erupted for McDonald’s in just the last week or so.

Blogs and message boards were filled this weekend with reports of the corporate giant’s one-sided battle with a 19-year-old named Lauren McClusky, who’s raised some $30,000 in contributions for the Special Olympics through events she calls McFests. You guessed it: Ronald & Co. doesn’t want anyone else using the “Mc” prefix for promotional purposes, so it’s trying to block McClusky from patenting the handle for her fundraisers.

Both parties have already lawyered up. Obviously that’s a bigger deal for McClusky than it is for a multi-billion-dollar global behemoth. The youngster says she’s merely fighting for the right to use her own name (the “Mc” in McFest comes from McClusky, she asserts), and points out that $5,000 of what she’s raised is being wasted on legal wrangling instead of helping the disabled.

The cyber-coverage has been mixed. Some reports indeed portray McDonald’s as the sort of mustachioed corporate villain that boots widows and childrens from their homes just for the fun of it.

But others note that McDonald’s hasn’t blocked McClusky from holding her fundraisers under the McFest name. It’s merely challenging her attempts to trademark the name McFest, which could be lent to far less lofty endeavors if the youngster should choose to license it at some later date.

That situation wasn’t the only one that might’ve cost Mayor McCheese some sleep this weekend. Across the pond, Brits are leaping out of their plimsolls to berate McDonald’s for misinterpreting British slang in new ads for the Saver Menu, or what we know here as the Dollar Menu. The spots equate a pound with a bob, when anyone who’s ever seen “Oliver” would know a bob is the street term for a shilling. Much of the coverage slams the Yank company for not using accurate English, as if we in the States have no respect for the mother tongue. Ronald is being cast as the ugly American.

Far worse disparagements came from a member of the Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand, who was irate because the band’s label sold McDonald’s rights to use one of the quartet’s tunes in commercials. “I’d rather eat a cowpat on a bun than a bloody McDonald’s,” Alex Kapranos reported posted on Twitter.

And, just to round out the assault from the arts, The Hollywood Reporter posted a story today about a 17-minute animated flick that was aired at Sundance, the movie Mecca. The report calls it, “the movie no lawyer should see,” and notes that it’s basically a depiction of well-known brand icons in situations that would have marketing departments hyperventilating into a brown paper bag.

Included in the action, says the story, is “an evil Ronald McDonald” who “goes on a shooting spree.”

At least McDonald's isn't the only restaurant brand to be sullied. The story notes that Big Boy is shown picking his nose.

It doesn’t sound much like entertainment or art. But it’s safe to call it a super-sized headache for McDonald’s legal department.

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