McDonald’s, Failed Advertising?
McDonald’s is one of the most renown fast-food brands that has consistently been popular worldwide for its unhealthy yet savory menu. In 2017, McDonald’s faced a marketing crisis with an advertisement aired in the United Kingdom that was clearly short of thought.
This ‘Dead Dad’ McDonald’s commercial offended many viewers with an insensitive topic and unwise way of delivering its message. The plot consists of a conversation between a mother and a son, whose father had passed away. When discussing what his father was like, the son is upset that he doesn’t seem to have much in common with his father. However, when they arrive to McDonald’s and order, the son realizes that he does have something in common: taste in McDonald’s sandwiches.
The message itself is somewhat clear; McDonald’s utilizes emotions involved with memories to promote its menu. However, McDonald’s seems to have taken a wrong approach because public reaction shows that many were displeased and hurt, especially those who have personally experienced a loss.
These live reactions on Twitter at the time makes it clear that there are individuals who were offended by this advertisement because it touched on a topic that scarred them. These people were angry at the fact that McDonald attempted to connect a heartfelt and genuine memory to something as effortless as a burger.
The main issue in this McDonald’s case is that the brand took advantage of a tragic passing for advertising purposes, without taking into consideration the varying circumstances of its audience members. As a company with celebrity and popularity, McDonald’s should have reviewed the consequences of such a commercial. All the negative feedback makes it obvious that McDonald’s failed to achieve its goal of promoting its products and establishing a good reputation.
When first looking for an advertising failure to analyze, I wondered what the standard is to say that an advertisement failed to do its job. After researching and reading about this particular case, I began to wonder how the sales impacted determine a brand’s success or failure. Then, the next question is how important are advertisements and how much do they impact the sales of a company?
According to the graph above, research shows that sales increase significantly when ad exposure first takes place. In other words, the public reaction to an advertisement immediately after it is released is most important and affects revenue the most.
I learned that McDonald’s is an example of a failed marketing strategy because the very first reaction to the ‘Dead Dad’ commercial is not praise, but criticism. It taught me that it is important to interpret and analyze how the public reacts as soon as an advertisement is aired because that is when the sales are determined in the short run.
Perhaps this is why McDonald’s quickly discontinued broadcasting this commercial as soon as the consumers responded negatively.
Ad, T. (n.d.). McDonald’s pulls fish sandwich ad about a boy whose father died. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://money.cnn.com/2017/05/17/news/mcdonalds- advertisement-dead-father/index.html
Madhani, Dr. Pankaj. (2011). Reallocating Fixed and Variable Pay in Sales Organizations: A Sales Carryover Perspective. Compensation & Benefits Review. 43. 10.1177/0886368711413443.
Marketing Research Tools and FAQs. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.marketingprofs.com/Faqs/showfaq.asp?ID=110
Oakes, O. (2017, July 25). McDonald’s pulls ‘dead dad’ ad. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from
Siddique, H. (2017, May 16). McDonald’s pulls ad that ‘exploited child bereavement’. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/16/mcdonalds-apologises-over-ad- exploiting-child-bereavement