McDonald’s Mishap Explains Why Some Distance is Healthy

by Chris Fairbairn

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Fast Food Giant Follows Pepsi’s Pitfalls – why your food and drink PR experts should be able to stand back and take stock

Screen capture of McDonald's ad for food and drink PR blog

JUNK FOOD has been having a rough ride of late.

It would be bad enough if it was just Jamie Oliver feverishly hounding out the industry (for the small matter of making the world’s population obese) – but now a string of sugary adverts are squandering any chance of redemption.

But why are some of the world’s biggest, most successful and widely recognised firms getting it so starkly wrong?

The answer in our view is remarkably simple and even better, your firm can easily avoid it.

Fizzy pop to the brain

First up we had Pepsi, which monumentally miscalculated the power, sensitivity and seriousness of the Black Lives Matter campaign, effectively parodying it for sugary drinks gain.

For those who have not seen the video, reality TV star turned supermodel Kendall Jenner united police and protesters – with a simple can of Pepsi.

Given the current political climate in the US, it is hard to believe it passed muster with the marketing heads of a global corporation – and somewhat predictably, the criticism in the press and social media has been deafening – with an embarrassed Pepsi pulling the advert and a food and drink PR fail noted indelibly in the history books.

photo of Scott Douglas, used in Food and Drink PR postListen to our Scottish PR agency director Scott Douglas discuss PR fails on Scotland’s national radio station – from United Airlines infamous disasters to Pepsi’s lesson in poor taste

Fast forward to earlier this month (May 2017) and you’d be forgiven for thinking the Kendall Jenner episode had not happened at all, as along comes McDonald’s with another clumsy attempt at cultural appropriation.

Once again a junk food titan has miscalculated the recipe for public goodwill by caricaturing emotive subjects for commercial gain.

The advert in question featured a young boy whose father had passed, only for a shared love of a fillet-o-fish to bring back precious memories.

Although most of us are unlikely to go to the lengths of complaining about this, it is once again incredible to think that this insensitive concept got all the way to our various screens before being reined in by anyone with their finger on the pulse of public relations.

A photo of Asimo the robot, by Holyrood PR in Scotland, a public relations agencyThe automation revolution offers up a multitude of business communication lessons. This post takes the unusual step of praising an insurance firm while offering tips on taming a rapidly advancing robot

The vital learnings for any firm

While these recent examples stem from the ad world, there are some valuable lessons for businesses, especially those weighing up the merits of engaging with external PR specialists – and likewise for PRs wanting to offer a high quality service.

Our own assessment of these incidents is that there was far too much inward focus and not enough genuine and authoritative outside perspective.

We know for instance that the Pepsi ad was a product of the in-house team at PepsiCo. These execs, as talented as they may be, live and breathe the corporation – and perhaps lose track of its place in the real world.

It would be unsurprising that the McDonalds advert although produced by an agency – in this instance Leo Burnett – did not involve a very hands-on approach from McDonald’s, likely to be one of the agencies biggest, most powerful and most daunting clients.

A good PR agency can bring those outward looking eyes and ears – so unbelievably vital to communicating your brand messages in 2017.

Don’t let your business fall into the unhealthy practices of these fast food behemoths.

Get in touch with our agency with a proven track record delivering Food and Drink PR

Since 2002 we’ve communicated the stories of our clients in a clear and coherent way that boosts the bottom line and makes them happier places to work.

If you’d like to learn more, give us a call on 0131 561 2244, or use the contact form below:

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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