Is McDonald’s Skating Free After This Advertising Blunder?

McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) is in hot water after advertisements posted in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority subway trains were called out for being offensive and careless.

The posted advertisements showed a woman with her head down and covered by her hand, a position reminiscent of posters about depression. The tag-line read, “You’re Not Alone,” with a subtext of “Millions of people love the Big Mac,” and a phone number to a McDonald’s customer satisfaction line.

The advertisement was quickly spotted and identified as being offensive, poking fun at a serious and wide-spread mental illness. Many mental health advocates spoke out against the advertisement after it was discovered. Bob Carolla, spokesman for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said that advertising agencies often perpetuate mental illness stereotypes, and “either they don’t think, or they don’t care.”

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When McDonald’s heard about the advertisement, it quickly asked for the ad to be removed. The McDonald’s representative for the Boston area, Nicole DiNoia, said to Time that the ad was “not approved by McDonald’s,” adding that that company has an approval process for its advertisers, but “regrettably, in this incident, that process was not followed.”…

Boston-based ad agency Arnold Worldwide was responsible for the advertisement, and the agency’s president, Pam Hamlin, said “McDonald’s did not approve the ad, and its release was our unintended error.” She assured that it would not happen in the future and that the company had improved its approval process.

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While it may be hard to blame McDonald’s, as the ad agency seems to have accepted responsibility for the mistaken and careless posting of the insensitive advertisement, McDonald’s image may still be damaged by the error. Some even argue that the advertisement approval system should be more transparent, and that the company shouldn’t rely on finger-pointing to clear itself of the blame.

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