A new ad for the iconic fast food chain McDonald’s that aired last weekend in high-profile TV slots, including during NFL playoff games and the Golden Globe Awards, has viewers condemning the commercial as “tasteless” for, critics say, attempting to exploit such national tragedies as the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombings in order to make the slumping burger giant seem a more “human.”
On the other hand, advertising industry professionals have praise the ad for exactly the same quality — humanizing a $28 billion mega-corporation.
The new ad, entitled “Signs” and viewable above, consists of a montage of McDonald’s signs above the individualized messages spelled out beneath the familiar golden arches logo. Traditionally, that space was used for the “billions served” slogan that purported to tout how many actual hamburgers McDonald’s has sold since the chain was founded in 1955.
But McDonald’s franchise owners often use that ad space to create personal messages, and the “Signs” ad compiles several, including such statements as “Boston Strong” and “We Remember 9/11.”
After the ads aired, responses on social media were immediate and largely not favorable, many using such adjectives as “tasteless,” “vulgar,” and “crass.” Reactions included the following.
And this gem, as well.
Some took the sarcastic approach.
While another made the point that McDonald’s could improve its image by paying its workers a better wage.
Fast food workers are among the lowest-paid employees in the country, paid an average of just over $9 per hour.
In a statement, McDonald’s said it welcomed even the negative responses to the new ad.
“It is part of our campaign to listen more and have a deeper conversation with our customers, and this ad is achieving that,” the company said in a press release.
“We’ve seen some strong praise and some negative comments. We expect that, and we welcome it. We’ll continue to challenge ourselves to push boundaries in connecting with our customers.”
But while consumers, at least those making themselves heard on social media, were largely repelled by the ad, advertising industry pros felt differently.
“I thought the ad was awesome,” said Albuquerque ad man Steve McKee. “It’s clear that all the billboards were real. It was demonstrating that McDonald’s is Americana.”
“McDonald’s is working very hard to rebuild its brand,” Northwester University marketing professor Tim Calkins added.
“Over the past couple of years it has taken a ton of hits. This new signs ad is incredibly heartwarming.”
With sharp drops in sales and a struggling stock price, McDonald’s hopes that the new ad will generate enough attention to bring hungry consumers back into their franchise stores, of which the company has nearly 35,000 worldwide.