McDonald’s pulled a UK advertisement following backlash from a small group of people accusing the fast food chain of exploiting bereaved children.
A commercial created by the McDonald’s UK creative agency Leo Burnett sparked about 100 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, according to The Drum. Grief support groups claimed McDonald’s was using childhood bereavement as a way to sell its Filet-O-Fish sandwich.
The advertisement featured a boy speaking to his mother about what he had in common with his late father. From eye color, sports and romance, the mother relates memories of the boy’s father right down to his favorite food, the McDonald’s fish sandwich. The moment the boy bites into his Filet-O-Fish as his mother smiles at the memories was apparently intended by McDonald’s to evoke a warm and fuzzy feeling.
That was not to be the case.
“McDonald’s has attempted to speak to its audience via an emotionally driven TV campaign, however, what they have done is exploit childhood bereavement as a way to connect with young people and surviving parents alike, unsuccessfully,” Dr Shelley Gilbert, founder and president of Grief Encounter, said, according to The Drum.
“We fully support children and surviving parents remembering loved ones with memory boxes, family experiences which remind them of happier times and openly talking about the member of the family that has died,” she continued. “But trying to insinuate that a brand can cure all ills with one meal is insensitive and shouldn’t be a way to show that a brand recognizes ‘the big moments in life’.”
McDonald’s confirmed on Tuesday that it pulled the ad and would “review our creative process to ensure this situation never occurs again.”
“The advert will be removed from all media, including TV and cinema, completely and permanently this week,” a spokesperson said. “It was never our intention to cause any upset.”
But, upset they were, as the bereavement charity, Grief Encounter declared they had received “countless calls” from parents of bereaved children due to McDonald’s apparent lack of understanding.
Social media users joined the attack as well.
I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as cynical and exploitative as the new @McDonalds advert. Shameless, even by their standards
— Jack Alex Turner (@JackAlexTurner) May 12, 2017
— Sh1r (@__ShirMcC__) May 16, 2017
— Joseph Barracato (@JoeBarracato) May 16, 2017
That McDonald’s advert is a bit dodgy isn’t it? Kinda like saying yeah bereavement sucks but a hamburger will sort that right out, bit icky
— JamesPetford (@Jamespetford) May 16, 2017
But, other Twitter users decried the outrage and called out the fast food chain for capitulating to pressure to be politically correct.
Wake up right! Receive our free morning news blast HERE
— Devon Bloke (@DevonBloke) May 17, 2017
— Katie Randall (@katierandall03) May 17, 2017
@SkyNews I know it’s a bit tin foil hat but I can’t help but feel this is one of those times they knew the ad would have to be pulled.
— One of a kind (@secretspartanuk) May 17, 2017
— Sarah Ward (@sarahward99) May 17, 2017
— idad (@fearjerker) May 16, 2017
— Helen Russell (@helenr3535) May 17, 2017
@TODAYshow I watched the commercial and I thought it was very touching and well done.
— FlamingoJan (@Jan071961) May 16, 2017
— Leon (@ethics13) May 16, 2017
@TODAYshow I find no offense. The last thing my dad taught me b4 he died was to make his famous Caesar salad. I make it often & fondly think of him.
— Kathleen (@Leenie4450) May 16, 2017
@TODAYshow Seriously ppl! Your ultra sensitive stupidity needs to stop! This commercial was tasteful, respectful & well done. Grow up already!
— Jackie Warren (@aussie_mumof4) May 16, 2017
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