Paul Holmes

Sole McDonald's customer combats Morgan Spurlock with a healthy dose of effective PR

Sole McDonald's customer combats Morgan Spurlock with a healthy dose of effective PR

Every now and again, if you spend enough time in or writing about this business, you begin to believe the old clich? about nobody ever going broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

And then along comes someone like Merab Morgan, of Raleigh, NC, to remind you that some people are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

Morgan was one of the millions of Americans unfortunate enough to see Morgan Spurlock's hit documentary Super Size Me, perhaps the most spurious piece of filmmaking of the past decade. Spurlock filmed himself eating nothing but the least-healthy options on the McDonald's menu, putting on more than 30 pounds over the course of a month and causing himself all kinds of health problems in the process.

It's difficult to understand what Spurlock's little exercise was supposed to prove. I could go to Safeway every day, pick the most unhealthy items on their shelves, and kill myself in under a year, and it wouldn't tell you a single relevant thing about the company. Similarly, Super Size Me told you a lot more about Spurlock and his appetite for cheap propaganda than it did about McDonald's - which has never advised its customers to buy a Big Mac with all the fixings three times a day, 30 days a month, 12 months a year.

Morgan's sense of fair play was presumably outraged by Super Size Me, so she set out to prove that the opposite was also true. She went to McDonald's and ordered the healthiest items on the menu for the most part, even sprinkling in an occasional cheeseburger. After 90 days, she had lost 37 pounds - making the obvious point that it's not McDonald's that's the problem, but rather the choices people make.

"I thought it's two birds with one stone," she told the AP, "to lose weight and to prove a point for the little fat people... I had to think about what I was eating. I couldn't just walk in there and say, 'I'll take a cinnamon bun and a Diet Coke.'" Morgan says she used nutritional information downloaded from McDonald's website to help her create meals that contained no more than 1,400 calories a day.

The only slightly disappointing thing about this story is that McDonald's PR people didn't think of it themselves - it's a brilliant retort to a scurrilous attack. Certainly, some people would have found a way to criticize the restaurant chain, but most consumers would surely have given the company credit for having a sense of humor and coming up with a clever way of communicating its message of consumer choice.

As it is, McDonald's should be thrilled that it has so many loyal customers ready to spring to its defense.

  • Paul Holmes has spent the past 17 years writing about the PR business for publications including PRWeek, Inside PR, and Reputation Management. He is currently president of The Holmes Group and editor of www.holmesreport.com.

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