McDonald's apologises for bereavement ad

·3-min read
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McDonald's has been shamed into apologising for an ad which viewers say exploits childhood bereavement to sell fast food.

In the ad, a young boy asks his mother about his dead father, looking for things they have in common, and learns that they both liked the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich.

It's supposed to be heart-warming - but is heart-breaking for many.

"I am sickened and disgusted by this advert. Lost my dad at 9. Memories? Yes. Burger? No! Shameful ad," tweets one viewer.

"I genuinely don't think I've ever seen anything as cynical and exploitative as the new @McDonalds advert. Shameless, even by their standards," writes another.

Others describe it as 'trashy beyond belief' and 'absolutely vile'.

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Meanwhile, Dr Shelley Gilbert, founder and president of children's bereavement charity Grief Encounter, says that one in 29 children lose a parent before the age of 16.

"What they have done is exploited childhood bereavement as a way to connect with young people and surviving parents alike - unsuccessfully," she says.

"We have already received countless phone calls this morning, with parents telling us their bereaved children have been upset by the advert, and alienated by McDonald's as a brand that wants to emotionally manipulate its customers."

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The ad was produced for McDonald's by agency Leo Burnett, which boasts on its website of 'making McDonald's as British as fish and chips'.

"We go far beyond what an 'ad agency' might be expected to do and build brands in fresh, powerful ways," it claims. "We deliver transformative, convention busting, category-re-defining results through the power of great creativity."

A spokesperson for McDonald's tells the BBC that the ad wasn't intended to be upsetting, saying: "We wanted to highlight the role McDonald's has played in our customers' everyday lives - both in good and difficult times."

The ad was launched on Friday, and was supposed to run for seven weeks - although this now looks unlikely.

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Ad agencies pride themselves on their creativity, but often go that bit too far. Recently, Pepsi was slammed for an ad starring Kendall Jenner which was seen as exploiting the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

As one viewer pointed out wryly, "The worst part of the Pepsi commercial is when Kendall decides to protest racism by making a black woman hold her wig."

And earlier this year, the British Heart Foundation was also accused of insensitivity for an ad which showed a woman collapsing and dying at her sister's wedding.

In the UK, ads are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Its code of practice states that ads mustn't contain anything that could 'cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18'. They must also 'not distress the audience without justifiable reason'.

The ASA says it's investigating.

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