Fast food giant McDonald’s' latest advertisement in the United Kingdom featuring a young boy trying to come to terms with the death of his father sparked a huge controversy.
The ad, which promotes the fast food chain’s giant fish burger, shows a young boy mourning his late father. He struggles to find something common with his dad but fails do so. However, when he sits with his mother at a McDonald’s outlet and bites a Filet-O-Fish sandwich, his mother tells him this was his father’s favorite meal as well.
The boy finally cheers up after finding a common thing with his dad.
The advertisement failed to send out a “heartwarming” message as people have accused McDonald’s of “exploitation.” Following the backlash, McDonald’s apologized for the new ad campaign.
“This was by no means an intention of ours. We wanted to highlight the role McDonald's has played in our customers' everyday lives — both in good and difficult times," a McDonald's spokesperson said.
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the U.K.’s advertising watchdog, said it has received a number of complaints about the latest campaign.
@JackAlexTurner Hi. We have received complaints about the ad. As always, we'll carefully assess them to see whether there are grounds to investigate.— ASA (@ASA_UK) May 15, 2017
Angry mothers of children who have lost a father, as well as a children's bereavement charity, also called out the fast food giant and spoke out in protest at the advert.
Sarah Fox, 37, from London said she lost her husband two years ago and is raising her 7-year-old boy without his father.
“The advert was confusing for him and really upset him. He asked me why the boy on TV wasn't sad and how he could feel happy again? It's an unnecessary subject to exploit for the gain of a brand," she said.
Tania Richman, from Brighton, added, “My two teenage children lost their father last year. They were offended and upset by the advert, and with [no] support information provided, I didn't know how to handle them afterwards.”
Bereavement charity Grief Encounter said it had received "countless calls" from parents saying their bereaved children had been upset by the advert.
Dr. Shelley Gilbert, founder and president of the charity, said, "McDonald's have attempted to speak to their 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.”
She further added, “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. 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."
The ad campaign was made by Leo Burnett, a London-based advertising agency. The ad was first aired on May 12 and is scheduled to run for seven weeks.
That new #McDonalds advert is absolutely shit, nothing in common with his dad but hey liked the same thing on the menu, are they for real ????— Graeme Ford (@GraemeFordy) May 12, 2017
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
Hearing about the McDonalds advert, i really can't believe they could be that insensitive! Just to push their brand! Disgusting.— Evan. (@evan_rees) May 16, 2017
The worst thing about #McDonalds is their insensitive advert. Definitely. Everything else they do is pretty good. But that advert? No ma'am.— Joe Rowe ? (@JoeRowe) May 16, 2017
genuinely in shock at @McDonalds most recent advert— callum (@Callum_BTN) May 16, 2017
forgot losing a parent at a young age is fixed by a filet o fish
The new McDonalds advert is sooooooo bad. And to think someone probably got paid thousands to come up with that shite.— bethan (@bethanduncalf) May 16, 2017