McDonald’s is in trouble.
The fast food firm’s latest advertising campaign, entitled “Dad” has brought the wrath of bereavement charities, and complaints are pouring in to the Advertising Standards Agency.
The company has pulled the advert and issued a pretty poor apology (but I’ll come to that later).
I’m not a fan of touchy feely advertising. But it can work when there is a point to it – a message, a purpose, a reason to highlight an issue.
Creativity for the sake of it. That is where McDonald’s has gone wrong in this case.
I’ll admit to watching the advert and feeling confused.
It shows a conversation between a boy and his mother, where the youngster is wondering what he had in common with his deceased father.
It finishes up with the pair sitting in a McDonald's restaurant, where she reveals they shared a love of the same sandwich, a Filet-o-Fish.
"That was your dad's favourite too," says the mother.
What’s the purpose of the story – apart from trying to sell burgers? Where’s the connection?
And have the advertisers considered they might be attracting the implication that Dad ate too many McDonald’s burgers - and that’s why he’s no longer with us?
That’s certainly what the comments on YouTube seem to be picking up on…
These types of storytelling adverts need a purpose - and that should have been an integrated campaign working with a childhood bereavement charity.
One in 29 children in the UK is bereaved of a parent or sibling by the age of 16, according to Grief Encounter, which offers support to these children and their families.
Had McDonald’s mapped the stakeholders in this area, and consulted with this charity on how to use the advert to raise awareness – even donating a portion of its sales to the cause – the public would have no right to be offended.
Instead, McDonald’s is getting hammered by... a bereavement charity.
This should have been better thought out and sense checked by the PR team, who would have told advertisers how to frame it.
Let’s be completely honest here. The advert is crass, more than offensive. Most adverts which are withdrawn are deliberately provocative, but this was just poor judgement.
And the public's appetite for this kind of thing has waned after years of X Factor sob stories. It is just wrong on every level.
A McDonald's spokeswoman said: "We can confirm today that we have taken the decision to withdraw our 'Dad' TV advert.
"The advert will be removed from all media, including TV and cinema, completely and permanently this week. It was never our intention to cause any upset.
"We are particularly sorry that the advert may have disappointed those people who are most important to us, our customers.
"We will also review our creative process to ensure this situation never occurs again."
What is the company sorry for? For upsetting the bereaved? For putting out a rubbish advert? This statement is almost as confusing as the advert itself.
The ad first screened on May 12, and because of scheduling lead times, it will be screened again today, before coming off air.
The campaign, from London-based advertising agency Leo Burnett, had been scheduled to run for seven weeks, but has ended up lasting just five days.
I just thought it was a rubbish concept.
As part of a creative communications group, I know only too well that there’s nothing worse than pointless and self-indulgent creativity for the sake of it.
Anyone can come up with a concept.
But it needs to have a clear message or purpose, otherwise it will simply confuse the public.
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