McDonald’s pulls ‘dead dad’ ad after string of complaints

McDonald’s has said the ad will be removed from all media this week after it attracted criticism for “inappropriately and insensitively using bereavement and grief to sell fast food”.

UPDATE: McDonald’s has announced it will withdraw the controversial advert, and it will be removed from all media, including TV and cinema, 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.

“Due to the lead-times required by some broadcasters, the last advert will air tomorrow, Wednesday 17 May. We will also review our creative process to ensure this situation never occurs again,” says a spokesperson.

A McDonald’s ad showing a young boy finding common ground with his dead father over a Filet-O-Fish could be investigated by the ad regulator the Advertising Standards Authority after it received more than 100 complaints.

A spokesman for the ASA admits the ad has prompted a “backlash”, and while he would not give an exact figure said complaints had exceeded more than 100. The number is increasing, with more “still coming in”.

Complainants have objected that it is inappropriate and insensitive to use bereavement and grief to sell fast food. Some complainants have referenced the proximity to Father’s Day, which takes place next month.

“We’re carefully assessing the complaints but no decision has been reached on whether there are grounds to launch an investigation,” an ASA spokesman tells Marketing Week.

A decision on whether or not there are grounds to investigate should be made in the next two weeks.

Criticism of the ad has been rife on social media, while it has also been condemned by bereavement charities. McDonald’s has apologised for any offence caused, but will continue to run the ad.

A McDonald’s spokesperson told the BBC: “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.”

McDonald’s is not the only brand to have found itself criticised for its marketing while trying to make a positive impact. Pepsi’s “tone-deaf” ad featuring model Kendall Jenner as the leader of a group of protestors who tries to dispel tensions using a can of the soda was roundly lambasted and eventually pulled.

Dove also recently released ‘personalised’ bottles mimicking different female body shapes, which attracted ridicule on social media.

Hide Comments3 Show Comments
  • Luke Cunningham 16 May 2017 at 3:42 pm

    …and exactly how did the dad die? Heart attack (from years of bad diet) maybe? McDonalds really didn’t think this one through.

  • James 16 May 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I watched the commercial first before knowing anything about the ‘story,’ and I saw nothing wrong or inappropriate at all and found it rather sweet. Cleary the dad has been gone a long time if the teen doesn’t remember him. Much ado about nothing, as usual.

  • Pete Austin 17 May 2017 at 8:58 am

    I see nothing wrong. Clearly takes place long after grief has faded into acceptance and nostalgia. Like the previous comment, I found it sweet. Wonder if the people complaining have even seen the advert?

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