• An Open Letter to McDonalds

    by  • January 28, 2014 • Advertiser Accountability • 7 Comments

    PTC President Tim Winter wrote to Don Thompson, President and CEO of McDonalds, calling on McDonalds to re-establish its trust with customers — by sponsoring family-friendly entertainment.McDs

    Dear Mr. Thompson,

    For generations, McDonalds was the number one fast-food destination for families — especially families with young children. McDonalds’ menu and restaurants were kid-friendly, but more than that, McDonalds seemed to go out of its way to maintain a wholesome, family-friendly image.

    While competitors like Burger King and Carl’s Jr. advertised heavily on raunchy programming and deployed sleazy ad campaigns in their quest to lure young male consumers, McDonalds kept its ad campaigns clean and seemed to work hard to ensure that its ads were placed in family-quality television programming.

    It is no coincidence that during those years, McDonalds outperformed its competitors. And really, it comes down to simple math. A family of four or five (or more) is going to consume more food than one seventeen-year-old boy.

    In recent years, however, McDonalds seems to have undergone an identity crisis, trying to be all things to all people. In the process, you seem to have abandoned your core market– families– and the ad strategy that helped to make McDonalds so successful for so many years. And it shows in the earnings reports.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that your strategy, as communicated to investors on a recent conference call, is to “re-establish the trust of customers.”

    We agree. McDonalds does need to re-establish the trust of customers. A key strategy in re-establishing that trust must be remembering the families that have been the cornerstone of the McDonald’s brand, and once again pursuing a family-friendly ad strategy.

    In recent years, McDonalds advertising practices have placed the company among the worst in the nation. McDonalds’ ads are too often seen to support violent or sexually graphic programming.

    This isn’t just an opinion. It is borne out by academic research. Studies from Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa State Universities have found that television viewers are less likely to recall the product being advertised if the advertisement airs within violent or sexually-explicit programming.  And Walmart’s chief marketing officer has stated publicly that their media dollars generate an additional 18% return on investment if aired during “safe” programming compared to explicit programming.

    Mr. Thompson, you know from McDonalds’ own track record that when you pursue family audiences and a family-friendly ad strategy, none of your competitors can touch you. As an added benefit, you will make a lasting and positive impact on the culture for this generation, and perhaps even generations to come.



    Tim Winter

    President, Parents Television Council



    7 Responses to An Open Letter to McDonalds

    1. William Hughes
      February 10, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      You, your the one having a Big Mac Attack! Plop Plop Fizz Fizz Oh what a relief it is.

    2. RJ
      February 2, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Tim, Thanks very much for taking the time and effort to write this letter. It is much needed here and to other advertisers as well. To companies advertising on TV:
      Doing the right thing (equals family friendly) leads to better culture and ultimately to better business success. Pursuing immediate profits by using the supposed glamour of poor advertising choices (sex and violence) will lead to ruin in the longer run. Trust is built on doing what is right, and people can tell the difference.

    3. B
      February 2, 2014 at 6:12 am

      Such a shame that you feel the need to use raunch to boost sales. Aren’t you making enough ‘serving billions each year’?

    4. Stephen Chauvin
      January 31, 2014 at 8:05 am

      Tim, I certainly hope that they take your advice. I have not been back to McDonalds, except for an occasional single cheap burger when nowhere else is available. If they reverse their current trend, I might considered them for an occasional “treat”. And if they listen to the pleas of other parents for more wholesome food, we might consider them for an occasional meal. Until then, we will seek out more family focused and healthy food establishments.

    5. MK Okain
      January 29, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Dear McDonalds,
      Please return your ads and program sponsorship to family friendly. Our family has not eaten at Hardee’s or Burger King in several years because of their ads. In our town, one can see the empty lot at Hardees which is proof that others feel the same way. Just across the street from Hardees is a fast food restaurant that appeals to families and good taste advertising and is not afraid to stand up for its standards. Burger King seems to have attempted to stop some of its sleezy ads but has made no attempt to reach out to families, and the families are not coming back in droves yet..

    6. Leeni
      January 29, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Sorry. No parent should take a child there to eat ANYTHING. The items they serve made us violently ill, sick for a week, and we are not the only people this happened to – look it up! After that day, whenever I see the store, I just want to plead with people not to risk going there. We wonder all the time what would’ve happened if a child ate what we bought. They would’ve been hospitalized. It was that bad.

      I would like Mc Donald’s to stop cutting corners and boast improvements on their products.

      • Fred Campbell
        January 31, 2014 at 6:18 am

        Sorry Leeni, not our experience………….

        The lower priced offerings tend to be less savory than desired but the quality has always been acceptable (to us).

        And the fries are superb.

        Now, if McDonalds will just remember their family roots………….

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