McDonald’s McBites bite the dust

Chickem McBites, those new “poppable” chicken morsels at McDonald’s, introduced in some markets this year are no longer around.

Online reviewers in general dislike them, but reviewing new fast food items puts the bar very, very low — limbo low, in fact. One review does like them, stating they have exhibit “a kick of home-style seasoning.” (This reviewer’s name, Financefoodie, led me to hope there would be some nice numbers in the review — biggest markets for McBites, profit margin compared to McNuggets, etc. No such luck. Drat.)

I considered them a nice change from Standard McNuggets with a Southern Fried Chicken flavor and appeal. My favorite “limited-time-item” is Pork McRibs — decent Carolina ribs dumbed down for the masses.

McDonald’s would do well to study the menus on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Driveins and Dives on Food Network. Any reasonably good recipe from that show would become a drive-through best seller.

I did find some McD’s numbers. Revenues climbed 6.7% in January in part due to McBites. With that bit of good news, I hope they bring Chicken McBites back. If they do, order me a snack size with sweet chili dipping sauce…

Timing of the bin Laden announcement

I had assumed that the Abbottabad operation took place on Sunday evening Eastern time.

But there was an unwitting witness to the operation who was tweeting about it live — at 1 AM Pakistan time. Sohaib Athar tweeted, “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” This would be 4 PM EST.

Given that the on-site operation took about 40 minutes, and that includes recovering evidence about al-Qaeda operations from the scene, it was all over by 5 PM Washington time.

In fact. reports say bin Laden’s body was buried at sea at 2 AM local time, again 5 PM Washington time.

So the President waited six and a half hours to make the short historic announcement.*

Why? Was he waiting for the DNA confirmation? (DNA testing seems to take weeks in ordinary circumstances, which these, of course, weren’t.)

*There’s a ruckus now about Keith Urbahn, a former White House staffer in the Bush administration, breaking the story an hour early on Twitter, based on a TV producer’s unsubstantiated rumor.

Hiding in caves?

Rachel Maddow has ridiculed this idea, stating that many major al-Qaeda leaders were captured in large cities in Pakistan — just like Osama Bin Laden himself.

In March, 2002 Abu Zubaidah was captured in Faisalaba. In September of that year, Ramzi Binalshibh was arrested in Karachi. In March, 2003 the infamous Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was arrested in Rawalpindi. He was a major force in the 911 events and involved in the the kidnapping and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl. Two weeks later, Yassir al-Jaziri was arrested in Lahore. He is thought to be number seven in the Al Qaeda chain of command.

In July of 2004, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was arrested in Gujra, Pakistan. He was tied to the the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

In May 2005, Abu Faraj al-Libi was arrested by the Pakistani intelligence near Peshawar. He’s thought to be the number three man in al-Qaeda at the time. He had received word that he had been made operational leader from a courier sent by bin Laden himself.

Tracing the activities of that courier led to discovering bin Laden’s whereabouts. It turned out that bin Laden was sequestered in a compound once occupied by al-Libi. Hiding in plain sight.

All al-Qaeda members. All captured in Pakistan. Not a single one hiding in caves in the lawless tribal region in the northwest part of the country, where the US supposedly thought Bin Laden and his associates were.


President Obama tonight reported that the Al Qaeda leader was killed in a firefight resulting from a targeted operation that the President ordered today in Pakistan.

While the notorious mastermind behind 911 and other horrific attacks on the US has been rumored to be in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas, he was found to be hiding in Abbottabad, a city of 120,000 only an hour north of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

(The mastermind link above is to The New York Times obituary, one of the longest on record — certainly of a non-American. Sadly, as sometimes happens, the main writer of the piece has pre-deceased his subject.)

The city, a tourist destination famed for its breathtaking mountain views, has a large Pakistani army base and a military academy, so it is not isolated from Pakistani military and counter-intelligence forces. Remarkable, hiding in plain sight. Remember, the “hiding in Afghanistan’s caves” theory in the previous administration?

Having eluded a worldwide manhunt for so long, Osama Bin Laden probably felt more and more secure, especially being outside the easy reach of US troops in Afghanistan. However, America had been tracking strong leads since last August, according to the President.

“Justice has been done,” said President Obama.

Frankly, I thought he would escape capture by American forces forever and upon hearing the rumors of his death, I thought it was due to natural causes. Oh, ye of little faith.

Watch the President’s announcement here and here.

I’m sure many Americans who remember the 9/11/2001 catastrophes vividly cannot quite believe this breaking news.

God bless the United States of America.

Wedding of the Century

Prince William gets that accolade because his parents’ wedding was a whopping 30 years ago — very last century.

The bride’s gown was far beyond those shown on Say Yes to the Dress, yet it didn’t have any Swarovski crystals on it to make her feel like a royal… Oh, wait now Kate Middleton is a royal. Just custom-designed lace, a diamond tiara, a sensible-length train carried by an adult — not a bevy of six-year olds as in Princess Diana’s case. (At one point, they just rolled it up and tossed into her coach, because everything is perfectly timed and did not allow for proper handling by the very young bridesmaids. )

Prince Williams wore the striking scarlet uniform of a colonel in the Irish Guards. He is commissioned in the Guards, the Army and the RAF. I think it was largely a fashion decision to look less somber next to his bride, in her much anticipated elaborate wedding dress. He served more time in the RAF and has only attained the honorary Irish Guard affiliation this year.

Of course, the whole historic event may all be designed by committees and cabals to suit current protocols.

There were several good moments: the groom’s difficulty placing that wedding band on her finger — again very modest and sensible. It’s maybe 3mm wide. I’ve seen the Duchess of Binghamton with gaudier rings. No need to overdo it with a diamond band, as her engagement ring was the groom’s mother’s — an 18-carat sapphire and diamond ring, easily big enough to look fake.

The Queen looked lovely in a springtime yellow dress with matching hat. There were two interesting queenly formalities shown in the broadcast. The Queen did not sing “God Save the Queen.” God save me? Really! (She doesn’t issue herself a passport, either.) And when the newlywed Duchess of Cambridge — and future queen herself — cursied before her, the Queen smiled.

P.S. I guessed the bride’s height. Much shorter than Prince William’s 6′ 3″, she is 5′ 10″.

I learn of the deaths of two ad people from BBDO.

In writing to my advertising friends at BBDO, I have learned of two copywriters that I worked with who passed away a while ago.

One was Bob Mallin, a boss of mine at BBDO. He died in Dobbs Ferry, NY at the age of 51. I do not know the date of his death, so I’m guessing 1995. He was a longtime BBDO copywriter who became an Associate Creative Director. He had been to rehab for alcohol, but relapsed. Terrible news.

The other death was another Bob, Bob Smith who was the best man at my wedding. He was one of my closest friends and all my BBDO stories, it seems, include him. (My other close friend at BBDO was Al Merrin who as far as I know is still with us and still doing well at BBDO.) Bob Smith was simply the world’s nicest guy and I can still see his smile and hear his voice. He was creative; he was funny; he was my friend. I miss him right now.

Bob Smith apparently died in the early 1990’s possibly soon after I last spoke with him. Over the years I knew him, I could see the growing effects of his drinking, but denied the seriousness of them. He was in LA working as a marketing guy for a major hotel, possibly Marriott. He was from Long Beach, California and had the support of his family there. From what I heard, he did not enter rehab, but tried to cut back on his drinking. Apparently, he died alone at his residence. A damn good copywriter. An enormous personal loss for all of us who knew him.

Requiescat in pacem. Vita brevis.

(My apologies for the lack of detail in this post, but I have been unable to find any published obituaries.)

Rabbits’ Feet Selling What?

I have seen an amazing tv commercial. It’s a commercial that sells the charitable work of veterinarians reattaching rabbit’s feet back to their original owners.Uh-huh. Because?

Because people don’t need luck any more now that they have Traveler’s Insurance.

The ad agency is Fallon in Minneapolis. It’s was realized on film by Tim Godsall at Biscuit Filmworks, as reported in Adweek.

Two Deans, Hanson and Buckhorn, art directed and wrote it. For the complete credits for this creative gem, go to

Some comment on the commercial here and here.

At first viewing, I thought the bunnies were wearing colored bandages. Now that I get it duh! I am a little squeamish myself. (Yep, I know what a lucky rabbit’s foot is,. I just didn’t want to take the clever idea that far.)

Why does Zest(r) soap rinse clean?

When you read the label on Zest soap, you discover that most the the seemingly incomprehensible ingredient names are soap. Sodium Tallowate? Soap. Sodium Palmate? Soap. Sodium Cocoate and/or Palm Kernate? Soap.

There is one plentiful ingredient ether sulfonate that is not soap. It is a surfactant, or surface active agent. These chemicals reduce the surface tension of water. Their molecules have both a hydrophilic end and a hydrophobic end. So one side of the molecule aligns with water, the other with oily dirt. They keep the dirt in suspension so it can be freely rinsed away.

In researching this, I encountered the themeline “Zestfully clean” first used in the 1980’s. This was written by the redoubtable James J. Jordan, Jr. who was a prime mover at BBDO for many years. He was Creative Director before being promoted to President of the agency. Incredibly talented, he coined memorable lines including “Wisk beats ring around the collar” and “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.” The fact that these themes are still remembered today testifies to their creative power.

I knew Mr. Jordan and I am sad to see that he passed away in 2004. He was a force of nature, and a passionate lover of great advertising. He will be missed.

Voting — a Free Lottery Ticket?

Arizona has placed a proposition on its ballot that could make a random voter a millionaire. Prop 200 proposes a million dollar lottery every two years for a lucky Arizona voter.

This would certainly increase voter turnout. A local Arizona newspaper has decried the idea, saying it doesn’t want uninformed voters. But maybe the winner will be a reader of your fine publication.

Honestly, the odds of winning a voter lottery are far better than the normal state lotteries.In 2004, about 2 million Arizonans voted so the odds of winning are 1 in 2 million. The odds of winning PowerBall are 1 in 146 million.

It makes voting seem like a good deal. (I believe they could speed up the state’s ballot counting by just looking at my ballot, and announcing the winners to be those for whom I didn’t vote. The last President for whom I voted was Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt.)

Now if they could just cut down on ballot propositions. This year, Arizona topped the nation with nineteen — including two each on land conservation and banning smoking in various places.

See this New York Times article:

Lose Gain Weight While You Sleep

There’s a new weight problem emerging in America: sleep eating. Apparently, the often-used sleeping medication Ambien (r) can cause the problem in susceptible people.

The story is chronicled in an article in The New York Timesthat tells of “emerging medical case studies that describe how the drug’s users sometimes sleepwalk into their kitchens, claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands,”

The patient eats food in the middle of the night and has no memory of the snacking.

But there are undeniable clues: a mouthful of peanut butter, Popsicle sticks and candy wrappers on the floor, crumbs in bed. More worrisome are the lit ovens and stoves found the next day. One woman taking the drug was discovered by her son frying bacon and eggs in her sleep, even though she was hampered by a body cast. “During the day, I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom by myself,” she said, according to the Times reporter.

Dr. Carlos Schenck, a sleep disorders specialist in Minneapolis has found 32 people with the nighttime problem, all of whom have total amnesia of the nightime meals. One patient with the problem gained 100 pounds. Often the patients know they have an eating problem, but have no idea of the link between night eating and the sleep medication.

Ambien, or zolpidem, is a $2.2 billion seller in the U.S. alone, making it the best-selling sleeping medication in America. This has been helped by $130 million advertising budget in 2005. (We’ve all seen the tv commercials.) In other countries, the drug is sold under the brand names Stilnox and Stilnocht. When I recently heard an Ambien spot, I did notice any warning about the weight gain issue.

Now if they can just synthesize a drug with the opposite effect on weight, they will have a real winner.

Read the article the Times’ site. There’s an editorial or two, and letters as well.