August 2, 2012 10:30:28 AM
Somewhere above the Manhattan skyline, in one of those towering office buildings that line Madison Avenue, the account executive for the firm that handles the Kentucky Fried Chicken account is getting an earful from his boss.
"We must find something that KFC can come out against!'' thunders the boss.
Meanwhile, in Louisville, Ky., the CEO of KFC can be found muttering to himself, "We get PETA and they get Mike Huckabee? Are you kidding me?"
Wednesday was "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," an event organized by Huckabee, who used to be a preacher, then used to be the governor of Arkansas and later on used to be a presidential candidate. These days, I think he is a community organizer.
At Huckabee's request, more than 630,000 people signed up for the event, but many thousands more simply showed up at the nearest Chick-fil-A franchise to counter a boycott launched by gay marriage activists last week after Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy said he was "guilty as charged" for not supporting gay marriage.
Mississippi congressman Alan Nunnelee sent me a press release to tell me he had sent a letter of support to Cathy about the "vicious smear campaign" Cathy is suffering. I appreciate Nunnelee keeping me up to date on his letter-writing. Next week, I am certain I will hear about his letter to his cousin asking if he remembered to lock up the cabin he let him use last weekend.
Meanwhile, at the Chick-fil-A restaurants in Columbus and Starkville, the lines of cars extended out into the street on Wednesday. As we report in today's Dispatch, one lady said she had driven down from Hamilton to the Columbus store and waited an hour and 15 minutes for her sandwich in order to secure her First Amendment rights. Imagine taking that order. Customer: "I'd like a sandwich and a waffle fry." Counter person: "You want First Amendment rights with that?"
Yes, for every unsuspecting customer whose motivation was simply an appetite for waffle fries, there were a hundred who turned out to save the American Way of Life by eating fried chicken on a bun.
Clearly, Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion has been amended: For every action, there is an equal and opposite over-reaction.
I keep waiting for us as Americans to step back, take a deep breath and calmly consider what we are permitting to eat out our collective stomach lining and raise our blood pressure (aside from fried food, I mean).
Folks, we are talking about shrill protests and dramatic counter-protests over what?
The CEO of a fast-food restaurant's opinion on gay marriage?
Very seriously, it turns out.
It will take a few days to determine just how profitable Wednesday was for Chick-fil-A, which operates 1,600 franchises around the country. But you can bet it breaks the record for Wednesday sales by a wide margin.
Of more importance, of course, is that Wednesday's event has solved that troubling matter of gay marriage once and for all.
Two weeks ago, Cathy made his personal beliefs a de facto company policy during an interview with a religious journal. That's his business, of course, and he'll bear the consequences of it, good or bad.
Undoubtedly many people who don't share Cathy's views on the same sex marriage issue have quietly responded by not eating at Chick-fil-A. Nothing wrong with that, either.
Then came the cries from mayors -- including those in Boston and Chicago -- to block efforts to open franchises in their cities. That's overreaction No. 1
Overreaction No. 2 is what happened Wednesday. When someone drives from Hamilton to Columbus because she is convinced their First Amendment rights hang in the balance, you realize that hysteria has won the day.
But from a marketing standpoint, Wednesday was pure genius.
Somewhere in Chick-fil-A's corporate offices in Atlanta, there is a marketing executive planning Cathy's next interview.
Maybe Cathy can come out against something every week, you know? This week it's gay marriage. Next week, it's illegal immigrants. The week after that, it's people who say "Happy Holidays'' instead of "Merry Christmas."
The possibilities are endless.
It is a stroke of genius. By comparison, it makes those cows ads look like something somebody came up with in a community college marketing class.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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