Horse meat scandal – McDonald's is loving it


By Andy Barr, Head Yeti

February 7, 2013 | 5 min read

Volatility seems to be the watchword of the corporate PR world at the minute.

McDonald's has been one of the few victors in the horse meat scandal

Every day seemingly brings a new crisis to the fore that communications departments are left to try and solve, from the Bank of England fighting off what appears to be Treasury-inspired attacks (leakier than a sieve I am told), through to RBS having to lube-up in preparation for its Libor penalty. It all makes for a torrid time for city PR types.

More of that later though. First to get my attention this week is the ongoing saga of horse meat getting where it shouldn’t. Personally, I am not bothered if a bit of Shergar ended up in my burger from Tesco. I like to think it makes me a bit more continental in my approach to trying new foods.

Turns out I may be in the minority though, especially as the scandal continues to dominate the headlines as more and more brands have to remove products from the shelves.

One brand that is loving it is McDonald's. Their bitter rivals, Burger King, have had to make a number of announcements because traces/a faint whiff of horsemeat have been found in their burgers.

This is where McDonald's tireless campaign of promoting the fact they only use 100 per cent beef in their burgers - something they have harped on about for years - is really paying off. A great lesson for those wanting to understand how a longer-term, slow burn campaign can really help a brand.

The only time McDonald's has been brought into the scandal is when it PR’d its late January newspaper campaign to reassure its customers that they only ever use 100 per cent beef. A genius idea by the Ronald brigade.

McDonald's can now sit back and watch their work reap its rewards and I fully expect their next UK trading statement to show that not only has their market share gone up, but there may also be a reference to them benefiting from their competitors getting embroiled in the horse-saga. The competitor reference will once again bring the topic up, and further damage their foes.

Enough horsing around though, back to the corporate PR world. As mentioned at the outset, volatility is the name of the game right now.

At the time of writing, the FTSE was up on high due to good retail figures and the Prosecco corks were again popping (no one dare open actual Champagne in the current economic climate). However, on the immediately preceding Monday the market had its worst day for three months for reasons that no one is quite sure of.

The topsy-turvy nature of the financial world makes it very different for public relations professionals to get momentum behind any positive campaigns. No sooner has an initiative been launched than a retreat has to be sounded to deal with either a company issue or a more general market problem that then distracts the media away from new campaigns and back to the day to day.

RBS is obviously one of the banks struggling to gain any positive momentum.

Its statement on Libor rigging was probably the least bullish response I have ever seen from a banking institution when it has been caught with its pants down. It almost seemed as though its government overlords may have encouraged the bank to keep quiet so that the messages could be managed at a more ministerial level.

Whatever the truth of the situation, the RBS comms team deserve credit for dealing with such a political hot potato with such gravitas and dignity and I cannot wait for word to spread on what has really been going on behind the scenes.

Finally, whilst Mr Hester and the financial world may have had a “miserable day” this week, the Arts, Beards and Cardigans sector has had a monumental boost thanks to the sale of a Picasso painting for £28m to an as yet un named buyer.

What odds that it was a lofty City financier, hence the anonymity so far?

Have a good week everyone.


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