McDonald’s has apologised for the ‘upset’ generated by a controversial TV advert after being accused of ‘exploiting childhood bereavement’ by charities.
Launched last Friday the seven-week campaign, devised by Leo Burnett, depicts a young boy struggling to come to terms with the death of his father, only to find happiness again in the guise of a Filet-o-fish burger – his father’s favourite dish.
Campaign groups representing widowers condemned the depiction however, labelling the piece as "offensive", while bereavement counsellors claimed to have received ‘countless calls’ from anguished children upset by what they had seen.
Dr Shelley Gilbert, founder and president of the Grief Encounter, said: "McDonald's have attempted to speak to their audience via an emotionally driven TV campaign. However, what they have done is exploit childhood bereavement as a way to connect with young people and surviving parents alike - unsuccessfully.
“We fully support children and surviving parents remembering loved ones with memory boxes, family experiences which remind them of happier times and openly talking about the member of the family that has died.
"But trying to insinuate that a brand can cure all ills with one meal is insensitive and shouldn't be a way to show that a brand recognises 'the big moments in life'."
Bereavment specialists such as Nelson's Journey recommend keeping a diary of emotions and a collection of mementos related to an individual to deal with feelings of loss but going out for a meal doesn't feature in the literature.
In a statement McDonald’s said: “This was by no means an intention of ours. We wanted to highlight the role McDonald's has played in our customers' everyday lives - both in good and difficult times.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said it is investigating the complaints and will "carefully assess" the situation to determine whether there are grounds for further investigation.