McDonald’s has pulled a UK TV ad that was accused of using child bereavement to sell fish burgers after it courted complaints from grief support groups.
The ad in question provoked around 100 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority and sparked a backlash on both Facebook and Twitter.
The spot was created by the McDonald's UK creative agency Leo Burnett, and tells the story of a little boy who is shown asking his mum about his late father in a bid to suss out what the pair had in common. He asks about eye colour, sporting prowess and matters of the heart, before his mum reveals that while they may have been different in these respects, dad loved McDonald's Filet-O-Fish burgers too.
Bereavement charity Grief Encounter said it was "pleased" by brand's decision, noting it had received "countless calls" from parents of bereaved children over the campaign.
McDonald’s confirmed on Tuesday it was withdrawing the ad and would "review our creative process to ensure this situation never occurs again."
"The advert will be removed from all media, including TV and cinema, completely and permanently this week," a spokesperson added. "It was never our intention to cause any upset.”
It had already issued an apology for the spot on Monday, but that wasn't enough for some viewers who took to Twitter to complain.
I genuinely don't think I've ever seen anything as cynical and exploitative as the new @McDonalds advert. Shameless, even by their standards
— Jack Alex Turner (@JackAlexTurner) May 12, 2017
That McDonald's advert is a bit dodgy isn't it? Kinda like saying yeah bereavement sucks but a hamburger will sort that right out, bit icky
— JamesPetford (@Jamespetford) May 16, 2017
Some, however, defended the ad, saying it resonated with them.
@GMB as a person who lost her dad at 4 years old. I found that advert lovely and quite comforting!! No need to remove it!! #GMB#McDonald's — Katie Randall (@katierandall03) May 17, 2017
The ASA said in a statement is "carefully assessing" the dozens of complaints logged around the ad, adding that no decision has been reached on whether there are grounds to launch an investigation.
Dr Shelley Gilbert, founder and president of Grief Encounter, said: "McDonald's has attempted to speak to its 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'."