McDonald’s Delivers an UnHappy Meal

Fast-food giant McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE:MCD) has apologized for what many see as a tasteless advertisement. According to ABC News, the ad in question was a poster featured on public transportation in Boston. The poster showed a despondent woman with her head in her hands and the copy “You’re not alone. Millions of people love the Big Mac.” The ad also had a 1-800 number to McDonald’s corporate phone line. Commuters posted pictures of the ad with their smartphones and it quickly went viral on social media sites. That is when the Big Mac hit the fan.

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Tasteless McDonald's Big Mac AdA law professor at Soffolk University Law School in Boston–David Yamada–wrote a blog post about the ad on his university’s “New Workplace Institute”, which he directs. Yamada wrote, “I don’t think I’m being oversensitive or too ‘PC’ about this…There are a lot of people who are struggling with their mental and emotional health. They may be highly stressed out, depressed, or even suicidal…The ad writers and executives in McDonald’s high-priced marketing operation missed the boat badly on this one. I’m sorry, but the ad is just too close to the real thing to be funny.” It should be noted that nowhere in the ad is a Big Mac pictured, which may have made the ad less offensive.

McDonald’s Corp. released a statement saying that it had not approved the ad and asked that it be “taken down immediately.” Regional McDonald’s spokesperson Nicole DiNoia issued a statement to Boston Magazine saying “A local print ad displayed on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) was recently brought to our attention. We can confirm this ad was not approved by McDonald’s…We have an approval process in place, with our marketing and advertising agencies, to ensure that all advertising content is consistent with our brand values. Regrettably, in this incident, that process was not followed. We sincerely apologize for this error.”

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The maker of the ad–Arnold MPG–took responsibility. Pan Hanlin, the company’s president, released a statement saying, “Arnold apologizes for its mistake to McDonald’s and to anyone who was offended by the ad. McDonald’s did not approve the ad, and its release was our unintended error. We’ve addressed the issue and have improved our approval process to ensure this does not happen in the future.”

According to Fox News, the executive director of Waltham-based Families for Depression Awareness–Julie Totten–said, “It’s really too bad because it [the ad] trivializes the whole issue of depression. We’re trying to say when you need help, it’s not a laughing matter. We don’t want people to feel stigmatized or made fun of.”

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