McDonald’s Promotion Wreaks Havoc at Eugene Weekly

Coast Weekly and Missoula Independent Newsracks Also Depleted By McDonald's Sweepstakes Fans.

“The Monopoly Game is Back At McDonald’s in the U.S.A. Play and you could win Big! Just visit your participating McDonald’s starting March 23, 2000 peel the game stamp off and you could win $1,000,000, 2000 Prowler, an all inclusive trip to JAMAICA and Much, Much, More.”

Although the University of Oregon campus was out of session for spring break, it didn’t take long for the remaining Eugene residents to realize that the March 23 issue of Eugene Weekly contained their starter kit to McDonald’s Monopoly Game in the form of an Alternative Weekly Network-sold McDonald’s insert. And what ensued was a debacle of Big Xtra proportions.

As soon as the issue hit the streets, Eugeneans began rifling through EW’s newsracks to hoard the game boards and playing pieces. As reports came in, it became clear that many of EW’s red, free-distribution boxes were being emptied or trashed. Only sixteen out of 75 outdoor boxes were affected, says Eugene Weekly Publisher Sonja Snyder. “But they were in key spots.” Nevertheless, Snyder says her staff replenished the boxes, sans insert, replacing about half of the missing papers. “All the indoor spots were fine, so circulation was not really affected,” she adds.

Some advertisers complained, however, and EW had to credit a portion of the cost of an ad to a customer whose own one-time insert was also plundered in the wake of the McDonald’s feeding frenzy. All told, Eugene Weekly netted only $548 from the McDonald’s insert, which, Snyder says she didn’t know the contents of until publication.

But McDonald’s aficionados were the least of Eugene Weekly’s worries. “On Friday [March 24],” reports Snyder, “We came to work and found golden arches spray-painted on our office window.” Activists also stole papers to protest the alt weekly’s decision to do business with McDonald’s, a company Snyder says has the reputation as “the worst corporate citizen in the world.” The same night the arches were graffitied, across the street from EW’s office, the campaign headquarters of liberal Representative Peter DeFazio were spray-painted: “liberalism=complicity.”

Eugene, home to both liberal University of Oregon students and a budding anarchist community, has a recent history of anti-corporate protests. “Nobody has stepped forward [to claim responsibility for the vandalism and paper theft]. We assume it’s the same people [who graffitied DeFazio’s office],” says Snyder. “I could have expected the protest, but not the greed thing. It shows the range of our readers,” says Snyder. “There’s a growing element of the protest movement that tends toward violence.”

The irony is that EW has given the anarchists and other protestors a voice. “We have covered their protests respectfully,” says Snyder.

To answer the protests, EW Editor Ted Taylor included an explanation of EW’s advertising standards in the March 30 issue. “We adhere to the very important concept of separation of editorial content and advertising. We do follow two restrictions on advertising: We do not accept tobacco advertising or ads that are sexually explicit or exploitive. We have turned down well over $100,000 in tobacco advertising over the years. For better or worse, that’s where we draw the line.”

That explanation may not be enough for some EW readers. Eugene Weekly advertisers Scott Landfield and David Rhodes of Eugene’s Tsunami Books wrote in their letter to the editor: “At this point we need to either see in print in your paper that you will no longer accept advertising from such despicable corporate entities, or you may consider our account closed.”

Coast Weekly and the Missoula Independent –two AWN papers that also ran the insert — reported pilfered papers, but no protests. The insert has also run in AWN papers Seattle Weekly, Colorado Springs Independent, Folio Weekly, Gambit Weekly, Pacific Northwest Inlander and former AAN paper Times of Acadiana.

“Everyone wants to be a millionaire,” says Bradley Zeve, Publisher of Coast Weekly, who says he noticed that the racks were empty much sooner than usual. “In my case, all I won is a milkshake and fries.” Zeve says that although the paper has run the McDonald’s inserts over a period of several years, he won’t do it again. “Word spread fast,” he says of the gameboards. “Next year, we’ll refuse [to run the insert].”

Sonja Snyder still seems a little shell-shocked from the past week’s events. “Getting the spray paint off was the easiest part,” she jokes.

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