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By B.L. Ochman

McDonald’s, the NYPD and New York Magazine were punked yesterday by “Three Strikes, You’re In!” an elaborate hoax by laughtivists/activists/makers of beautiful trouble”, The Yes Lab.

A Yes Lab press release about “Three Strikes, You’re In!,” accounced that individuals who are stopped and released three times by the NYPD’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” campaign, without being charged, are eligible for one Happy Meal™ at participating McDonald’s stores.

“To receive their Happy Meal™, customers must record each stopping officer’s badge number, as well as the the time and location of the stop, on a voucher obtainable at these stores.”

McDonald’s response, via lawyers: Not happy.

The NY Times recently noted that in 2011, 87 percent of the 684,330 people targeted were Black or Latino. Fewer than 10% of the stops led to an arrest, and almost none of those to a conviction. “In fact,” the Yes Lab says “many of those arrested found themselves handcuffed simply because they had questioned the right of the police to frisk them.”

As ABC News pointed out “What’s disturbing is their satire could actually be taken as real.”

NYPD & McDonald’s Response?
NYPD quickly identified the campaign as a spoof. McDonald’s sent its lawyers after The YES Men, but the campaign didn’t go away. In my opinion, that response shows how far McDonald’s, like so many of the biggest companies, still have a long way to go before they understand social media and social CRM.

Within hours, McDonald’s forced the website down because of a McDonald’s copyright infringement. McDonald’s Twitter stream, used only as a broadcast medium, ignored the spoof, as did its equally non-social Facebook page.

In fact, it’s a good bet that the spoof will turn up in “how not to handle brand attacks” Power Points at conferences for years to come! As for NY Magazine, “they thought what the YES Men’s Facebook page calls “McDonald’s demented “Baobab tree” nonsense on is fake.”

When asked why “Thee Strikes, You’re In” chose to target McDonald’s as well as NYPD, a YES Labs spokesperson said that “McDonald’s has made millions serving low nourishment food to African-American communities.”

A bit of humanity on McDonald’s part would have gone a lot farther than a lawyer’s threats. As you can see, the video may have been forced off Vimeo, where it originally appeared, but it’s still on Daily Motion. And when it’s forced off that site, it’ll appear on another. And another.

The bottom line: In a move that might have been expected in 1999, but is just plain inadequate today, McDonald’s tried to strongarm the Three Strikes site down, but the YES Men definitely made their point. (Again!)