McDonald’s doesn’t want marketers to stop being brave despite the ‘dead dad’ ad fail

McDonald’s UK CEO admits it made an error with the ad but says he still wants the brand’s marketers and agencies to be “brave and bold”.

McDonald’s UK CEO Paul Pomroy says he “still wants marketers to be brave and bold” despite the ‘dead dad ad’ failure.

Speaking at an Oystercatchers event last night, Pomroy discussed last year’s controversial ad, which was pulled after McDonald’s was accused of exploiting bereavement.

Pomroy said it was important to make clear that no one was going to lose their jobs over the controversy and sent out an email to the agency the morning after the advert was launched reassuring them.

Despite the mistake, Pomroy was clear that in order to foster innovative and creative ideas you have to allow people to fail without fear of losing their jobs. “You have to look at it all – the people who worked on that quarter also worked on the other 48 quarters,” he said. 

Pomroy heralded McDonald’s long-lasting relationship with its agency Leo Burnett, saying: “It’s a waste of resources and a drain if we are recruiting.”

Pomroy also stressed the importance of keeping out of the creative process as CEO. And  Cat Funk, VP of European brand and marketing director at TK Maxx and Louise Fowler, marketing boss at the Post Office, who were also on the panel, spoke about how crucial open and honest relationships were when working with agencies.

Fowler said: “I’ve never worked with a bad agency, but I’ve worked with lots of bad clients. When you look at the brief and how you’ve managed them, it’s not the agency’s fault [when things don’t work out as desired].”

McDonald’s ‘three-legged stool’ approach

Pomroy also revealed McDonald’s “three-legged stool” approach, which he sees as the driving philosophy behind the fast-food chain’s success.

“The three legged stool looks at the elements of our business that need to be successful. The company on one side, our franchises that run our restaurants — we’re 90% franchised in the UK — and then you’ve got our suppliers. For the business to be successful each leg of the stool needs to be successful.”

In order to keep the three ‘stools’ in sync McDonald’s UK holds an annual AGM that includes suppliers and franchisees coming together with the company to discuss its strategy.

Pomroy explained: “Communication is critical and suppliers and franchisees need to be working together towards a strategic goal. We share our three-year plan for growth and then we expect our suppliers to go back to their business and work on that. It’s all about trust If we’re not open with them they can’t do their job either.”

McDonald’s also gives awards at the event. “We give three awards for franchisees and suppliers. They go to people who we feel have shown true partnership — not just in innovation but also working across a real breadth,” said Pomroy.



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  1. Andy Porter 14 Mar 2018

    Instead of talking about what really matters, which is how it has affected customers and the fact that it was very poor marketing, they’ve talked about how they are not going to fire anyone and some crap about three legged stools.

    I understand that nothing can be done other than apologise for the ad, but we need them to acknowledge that they dropped the ball and that it was poor marketing. Any good marketer knows that people respond better to messages that are framed positively… not by showing some poor lads dead father over and over on screen to try and sell a sandwich.

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