McDonald’s Tragimercial?


During the football game today I saw the oddest commercial.

McDonald’s is featuring signs from local franchises:

Thank you veterans
God protect the USA
Keep jobs in Toledo
All of us weep for the Columbia Families
We remember 9 11
[A pink sign with pink ribbons]
PRAY for the rescue of the MINERS
Boston Strong
We will be back soon [in a flood – this one is actually compelling]
We believe in you Crystal
Happy 30th Ed n Beth
It’s a girl Rosalie Kay
Hug those dads
Welcome home 442nd fighter wing
Happy 95 birthday Woody we love you
A little lovin can change a lot

About 20 seconds into the spot the kids and I started talking about how it should end. Maybe with a slaughterhouse and a giant PETA logo? Or perhaps with some stoners and credit to The Onion. We just couldn’t believe what a mess we were looking at so we never made it past the one about the miners. When I googled the ad and watched the whole thing I was still left with no warm feelings about it.

I guess I don’t think of McDonald’s as the heart of my community. I’d be totally depressed if my local fast food place celebrated the birth of my kid or my 95th birthday. Further, this image is everything that’s wrong with breast cancer awareness:

McDonalds pinkwashing breast cancer
I guess for the people who didn’t turn away to mock the commercial after 20 seconds something might resonate. I’m guessing they’d have to be fans of the brand already or perhaps franchise owners.

Mostly today my family and I sat around mocking a McDonald’s campaign and wondered who thought it was a good idea to take a brand with declining sales and tie it’s commercials to a bunch of tragedies.

Q: How Much Money Does McDonald’s Give to Ronald McDonald Houses? A: Not Much


If you’re ever driven past or needed one of the 322 Ronald McDonald Houses I’m assuming like me your heart warmed at the iconic clown who provides “a loving home away from home to families needing to be near their seriously ill or injured children while they’re being treated at metropolitan area hospitals.” Based on promotional materials like their own website Ronald McDonald House creates massive goodwill by branding themselves as the corporation who cares for children and their families.

Let’s talk about the value of goodwill. In 2012 Mc Donald’s reported its goodwill at $2.8 billion (up from $2.7 billion in 2011) [McDonald’s 2012 Annual Report, page 30]. It would be foolish for us to to shun cause marketing but we still need to look at it with a critical eye. Quite a bit of that goodwill stems from the easily identifiable Ronald McDonald character and the tacit association between Ronald McDonald and healing families is absurd on a good day and offensive on a bad one.

If McDonald’s was actually funding these Ronald McDonald Houses I think I’d be able to turn a blind eye. The fact is that they are donating miniscule amounts to the operating budgets of these very important facilities while reaping untold advertising benefits.

Fact: Ronald McDonald Houses operate at the local level where they have their own non profit status and have licensing agreements with McDonalds’s for the use of the Ronald McDonald brand. Ken Barun statesWe have sort of franchised the charity business.

Fact: The Tallahassee Ronald McDonald House told Corporate Accountability International that about 10 percent of their operating budget come from McDonald’s through local fundraisers and donation boxes.

Fact: The Dallas RMHC chapter says that only 5% of it’s budget come from both MdDonald’s and RMHC global in 2012.

Question: When 90-95% of your funds come from the community you serve why not rebrand as a Community Home?  

RMHC says they don't get money

Fact: McDonald’s places RMHC Donation Boxes in some of it’s outlets and makes a big deal of this in much of it’s communication about RMHC. The corporation calls it “our system’s largest ongoing fundraisers,” and boasts that in 2012 more than $50 million was collected worldwide.

Fact: In 2012 McDonald’s customers gave 1.5 times more to the RMHC than the corporation itself donated in 2011.

Fact: McDonald’s spent at least $18 million on a campaign that would donate one penny of every Happy Meal to the RMHC Foundation. McDonald’s estimated that it might raise $6.4 million. 

Question: Does this violate the Pledge McDonald’s took to not market junk food to kids?

RMHC gets funding

Fact: There is a “Tooth Truck” in the Ozarks that bears the Ronald McDonald image. The annual operating budget of the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile is $600,000 half of which is funded through Missouri Medicaid and the other half comes from community donations.

Question: Did the State of Missouri just fund McDonald’s advertising with $300,000?

Fact: Schools are rewarded with visits from Ronald McDonald when they collect pop tabs (pull tabs from soda cans). A boy in Sacramento, CA led his classmates in collecting 179 pounds of pop tabs (think about how much soda that is) and generated $12.57 for the Ronald McDonald House of Sacramento.

Question: How can anyone take this seriously?

ronald mcdonald loves soda

Fact: In 2012 the average McDonald’s worker made $8.25 an hour. The CEO was rewarded with an $8.75 million salary not including a 3-year bonus.

Fact: A report from the National Employment Law Project found that McDonald’s topped the list of fast food corporations whose workers rely on government assistance programs to make up for low wages. Forbes reported that McDonald’s cost taxpayers $1.2 billion annual in public assistance programs for their low-paid workers.

Question: Maybe the Tooth Truck is a $300,000 red herring? Oh nevermind. It all matters.

Many organizations no longer accept charitable donations from tobacco corporations and it’s my sincerest hope that the same will soon be said for food corporations with a similarly profound negative impact on public health. I suspect that in 5 or 10 years we’ll look back on Ronald McDonald with the same disbelief as Joe Camel.

You can read the full report at

All photos are courtesy of Corporate Accountability International. 


A Letter to McDonalds: My Mother’s Day Wish #MomsNotLovinIt


Dear McDonalds,

This Mother’s Day I have just one request. Leave my kids alone. I’ve honored your right to exist and I’d like to ask you kindly to honor their right to a McFood free childhood. I know, you’re going to say, “If you don’t like McDonalds just don’t patronize us.” And I don’t, and that’s a good solution but a better one would be where you stop marketing directly to children in insidious ways.

Your school can get a free visit from Ronald McDonald so that he can teach the kids about giving to charity. Although this sounds noble read the fine print:

This show is sponsored as an All-School Assembly. If all students do not participate in the presentation a show fee may be charged to your school.

If a savvy parent doesn’t want their child to be McEducated the school will be charged. Why would McDonalds want to reach pre-school aged kids? Further, McDonalds has pledged to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles. I’m not seeing proof of that pledge when McDonalds uses a 17 year old Olympian and a couple of little kids to promote a breakfast sandwich and don’t even get me started on apples in plastic bags with a side of HFCS caramel.

Gabby Douglas McDonalds

I wonder if McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson would let his kids be part of this promotion?

The FDA/USDA/CDC/FTC already condemn the practice of marketing foods laden with sodium, fat, sugar and unidentifiable ingredients to our kids. Today, as a Mother’s Day gift to me I’m asking McDonalds to back off.

Readers, you can give me the gift of your signature. Join the movement and let McDonalds know that McWorld, their advergaming for kids is McWrong. Sign up with and share the message far and wide.

If Mother’s Day is a day for us, let’s talk about our passions. My passion is children’s health. Join me in sharing the #MomsNotLovinIt hashtag all over the web and hopefully McDonalds will get the McMessage. Their own shareholder’s meeting has children’s health and obesity as it relates to fast food on the agenda (see page 50).

#MomsNotLovinIt Don Thompson

McDonalds: The Official Restaurant of the US Olympic Team



I want to talk about McDonald’s “healthy options”. The only thing I’d go near at McDonalds is a cup of water. Let’s face it Apples are on the dirty dozen list… go buy an organic apple at the grocery store, apples don’t need to be wrapped in plastic.

Premium Bacon Ranch Salad:

Chicken breast fillet with rib meat, water, seasoning [sugar, salt, sodium phosphates, modified tapioca starch, spice, autolyzed yeast extract, carrageenan, natural (vegetable and botanical source) and artificial flavors, maltodextrin, sunflower lecithin, gum arabic]. Battered and breaded with: bleached wheat flour, water, wheat flour, sugar, salt, food starch-modified, yellow corn flour, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium bicarbonate), wheat gluten, spices, corn starch, dextrose, xanthan gum, extractives of paprika.

Iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, spring mix (may contain baby red romaine, baby green romaine, baby red leaf, baby green leaf, baby red swiss chard, baby red oak, baby green oak, parella, lolla rosa, tango, totsoi, arugula, mizuna, radicchio, frisee), carrots.

Grape Tomatoes

Cheddar cheese [pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto (color)], Monterey Jack cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), potato starch and corn starch and powdered cellulose (prevent caking), dextrose, enzymes, natamycin (natural mold inhibitor).

Pork bellies cured with [water, salt, sugar, natural smoke flavor (plant source), sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite].

With 870 mg of salt this is 36% of the maximum allowance for an adult in a day and about 60% of the recommended salt intake for a child 8 and under. 


Fruit and  (candied) walnuts:

Apple Slices and Red Grapes: Apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain color), red grapes.

Vanilla Lowfat Yogurt: Cultured pasteurized Grade A reduced fat milk, sugar, food starch-modified, fructose, whey protein concentrate, corn starch, gelatin, natural (plant source) and artificial flavor, potassium sorbate (added to maintain freshness).

Candied Walnuts: Walnuts (TBHQ and BHT added as a preservative), sugar, peanut oil, honey, salt, wheat starch, maltodextrin, xanthan gum, natural (plant source) and artificial flavor.

Sugar and honey on your walnuts. It’s just like at the health food store. 

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait:

Low Fat Yogurt (for Parfaits)
Cultured pasteurized Grade A reduced fat milk, sugar, food starch-modified, fructose, whey protein concentrate, corn starch, gelatin, natural (plant source) and artificial flavor, potassium sorbate (added to maintain freshness).

Strawberries, konjac flour (stabilizer).

Low Fat Granola
Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, crisp rice (rice flour, barley malt extract, salt), dried high maltose corn syrup, honey, sunflower oil, salt, baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, apple puree concentrate, soy lecithin, cinnamon, crushed oranges, natural flavor (vegetable source).

The Parfait contains almost five teaspoons of sugar (23 grams)… a serving of chocolate Haagen Dazs has just 19 grams of sugar. 

Strawberry Banana Smoothie: Strawberry puree, banana puree, water, grape juice concentrate, clarified demineralized pineapple juice concentrate, sugar, contains less than 1% of the following: natural (botanical source) and artificial flavors, cellulose powder, pear juice concentrate, peach juice concentrate, xanthan gum, citric acid, pectin, colored with fruit and vegetable juice, ascorbic acid (preservative).

Cultured Grade A reduced fat milk, sugar, whey protein concentrate, fructose, corn starch, gelatin. Contains active yogurt cultures.

The smoothie has 44 grams of sugar, almost twice as much as a serving of chocolate Haagen Dazs.

Fruit and Maple Oatmeal:

Oatmeal: Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.

Diced Apples
Apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain color).

Cranberry Raisin Blend
Sweetened dried cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California raisins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide as a preservative (contains sulfites).

Light Cream
Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.

This clocks in at 32 grams of sugar, only 9 grams more than my bowl of ice cream. 

The Craziest Day Ever: Brought To You By Microsoft Kinect, Mc Donalds and The LAFD


Yesterday was the first Monday of Summer Vacation. The kids went to camp, and I began to tackle the 800 chores that were neglected for end of school festivities.

In the early evening we were invited to the Microsoft X Box Kinect reveal. The kids and I went with Tiffany and her son downtown to the Galen Center where we would meet up with my husband and family. Tiffany boldly navigated traffic the likes of which I have never seen before, and then we all waited in line. Oh, and then we waited some more.

There was no food, there were no drinks, there were no vendors. There were water fountains inside, but nothing for the wait in line. This was an event where you could RSVP your children. Note to self: do not bring children anywhere free. The cost of free is high.

After we made it in we put on these wacky white ponchos with shoulder pads that channeled Joan Collins circa 1985, and we took our seats. There was a weird screen between the seated audience and the audience on the floor. The audience on the floor was interacting with the Cirque Troupe while the seated audience watched through a mesh screen. Weird. Not good, not bad, weirdly engaging.

The reveal was amazing.

Seriously amazing. I sat there and poked Tiffany about three hundred times saying, “I want that.” and “Oh wait, I want that too.” And she never ever poked me back, nor did she shush me. I’m pretty sure it’s because she was tired. I’m pretty sure everyone knows that Kinect was previously called Project Natal, and it’s an XBox that watches how your body moves with three little cameras. Instead of holding numchuks like on a Wii, you simply stand in front of the machine and move as if you were  in the game. There are no controllers. It will be available November 4th, and I’m pretty sure that everyone will want one for the Holiday Season. As the parent of kids who have mostly outgrown the Wii, I see this as the next logical step. Oh, also, I want the yoga program. Like I really really really want it.

Here’s a snippet of a family playing a car racing game:

Now I promised you crazy, and I’m going to give you three crazy things that happened last night. I’ll give them to you in chronological order, though certainly not in order of import or oddity.

At the Kinect reveal event I could not find my brother (who I was really looking forward to spending time with), but I did accidentally sit down right behind my ex-stepbrother, his wife, and their two children. The ex step brother and I have no real contact, it’s always strange when we bump into one another. Every few years there’s an awkward “Jessica? Jessica Wilzig?” and I have to remember that I had a different name once upon a time. Our parents divorced in the late 80’s or perhaps the early 90’s? I was absolutely delighted to see him, and it’s been fun watching his wife’s star rise. I tried to explain to my friends who he is, but one guy just looked at me and said, “How does that even happen?” I don’t really have a good answer for that one. It just does.

When we left the Galen Center my husband was ravenous so we drove through Mc Donalds. In my head I’m screaming, don’t do it. Don’t buy this shit, don’t have a salt lick and dogfood for dinner. But the outside of me smiled, and recognized that I’d asked my family along to an event that delighted only me. The kids got hamburgers at 10PM. I said nothing. Everyone in the car recognized the oddity of my silence.

As we turned our car onto our street I glanced at a neighbor’s house and saw smoke billowing from a window. “Honey, I think the pink house is on fire.” As I said the words I thought, oh I’m overreacting, there’s no possible way that the house is on fire. Indeed I was not overreacting, the house was very much on fire.

My husband pulled the car over, told me to dial 9-1-1 and then he went to the front door of the smoking house, and started banging on the door. We could see lights being turned on, and smoke filled every inch of that home. After a moment a man answered the door, I watched my husband talk to him, and then the strangest thing ever happened.

The man walked back into his smoky house.

At this point in time the LAFD was en route, and I was still on the phone with an incredibly well trained dispatcher giving him details as I had them. The dispatcher didn’t react at all as I told him, “the man is going back into the house.” Nothing, no reaction whatsoever. Good work, LAFD our city needs unflappable. I did have the house confused with another, and I was terribly concerned that there were children inside, so it was only after my husband came back to the car and reassured me that that homeowner was not Indian that I exhaled. You see their immediate neighbor is a young Indian family, and the thought of children being in there was just too much to bear.

After fourteen minutes, 29 firefighters were able to put the flames out. My children huddled with other neighbors and we all looked on with horror as flames licked the sides of the pink house. I looked on with horror as my children ate McDonalds.

The homeowner eventually came to our side of the street to talk with the Battalion Chief. His hair was as wild as his eyes, and there was a trickle of snot coming from his nose. The kids wanted to see what would happen, but I had to take them home and to bed. My neighbor was having the worst moment of his life, and now that we knew he was safe it was time to go.

Every part of the evening conspired to have us drive down our street from the wrong direction and notice a plume of smoke.

Thank goodness.