Ear Hustle

A “McFrown” For McDonald’s New Commercial Hit With Backlash Of Capitalizing From Tragedies [Video]

McDonald’s new commercial showcasing heartfelt messages on outdoor signs quickly led to strong reactions, with some suggesting the restaurant giant did a great job and others saying the commercial shows the Golden Arches trying to profit from tragedies.

The commercial aired Sunday during the NFL playoffs and the Golden Globes, giving it a large audience.

It featured a montage of signs outside McDonald’s restaurants, including messages of support after devastating events.

Among them were “We Remember 9 11” and “Boston Strong,” a reference to the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured many others. Other messages thanked veterans or were more personal and wished individuals in the community a happy birthday.

The ad was set to a choir singing a version of “Carry On” by the rock band Fun.

McDonald’s U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl stood by the commercial, which is part of McDonald’s broader effort to improve its connection with customers after a prolonged sales slump.

“Good advertising creates emotion and it encourages conversation,” Wahl said. “We’re about engaging and leaning into that.”

The commercial, created by advertising agency Leo Burnett, highlights wording that franchisees have put on signs over the years.

Stuart Sproule, president of the branding firm Landor Associates, said the ad came across as authentic because many do think of McDonald’s restaurants as being a part of their communities.

“It didn’t ring false, it didn’t ring forced,” he said.

Jim Stengel, former chief marketing officer at Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, posted a message on Twitter calling the commercial the “best work” from McDonald’s “in a long time,” adding “well done” to Wahl, her team and Leo Burnett, the advertising agency that created the commercial.

For others, however, references to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings, devastating storms and other issues were jarring.

Harold Itzkowitz, vice president of advertising at National Memo, a political newsletter and website, posted on Twitter: “That @McDonald’s commercial is shameless, vulgar, tasteless, cynical, crass. In other words, as bad as the food. #GoldenGlobes”

Fight for $15, a union-backed group pushing McDonald’s and other chains for higher wages, also voiced opposition to the commercial. “Instead of spending money to look like a responsible company, McDonald’s could become a responsible company by paying its workers $15 an hour,” McDonald’s worker Adriana Alvarez said in a statement.

Executives from Oak Brook-based McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant company, have said they want to strengthen the ties between its restaurants and the communities they serve.

At the end of the one minute commercial, McDonald’s prompts viewers to head to a Tumblr site for the stories behind the signs in the spot.

Other companies have faced even sharper backlash for trying to incorporate national tragedies into their marketing. In 2013, for instance, AT&T was criticized for an ad that feted New York’s recovery after the Sept. 11 attacks while showing off its new smartphones. Campbell Soup also apologized that year for a tweet by SpaghettiOs asking followers to “Take a moment and remember #PearlHarbor with us.” The tweet featured an image of its smiling cartoon mascot jauntily holding an American flag.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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