It’s not a coincidence that at the same time McDonalds abandoned its family focus, sales started to decline.
In a letter to McDonalds, the Parents Television Council reported that the company’s advertising practices are among the worst in the country. The company’s ads often sponsor violent or sexually graphic television programming, despite that in previous years it was among the PTC’s “best” advertisers.
In the letter to Don Thompson, president and CEO of McDonalds, PTC President Tim Winter writes:
“In just the past month, McDonalds has sponsored some of the very worst broadcast content with its advertising dollars, including:
- An episode of Family Guy that joked about pedophilia (Peter Griffin refers to Mozart’s “The Magic Flute in A Minor” as a “pedophile opera,” then tells a little league player he still has “the best ass on the field.”)
- An episode of the CW’s youth-targeted period drama Reign that touted a not-safe-for-network-TV version online that featured two explicit sex scenes .
- Multiple episodes of the Fox serial-killer drama The Following, including one particularly gruesome episode that showed a woman’s throat being slit open .
“The juxtaposition of this historically family brand with such graphic and disturbing content is jarring, to say the least, but it is not an anomaly. It is consistent with a long-term trend that we have observed with great concern for the last few years.
“In 2007, the PTC ranked McDonalds ranked as one of the ten best television sponsors because of its avoidance of graphically violent, profane, or sexually explicit programming. For the past three years, McDonalds has ranked among the worst TV sponsors.
“I think it is not a coincidence that at the same time McDonalds abandoned its family focus, sales started to decline.
“I think 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. Just a few years ago — before McDonalds changed its advertising strategy and family focus — sales outstripped the next-closest competitor by $20 billion. At the time, QSR Magazine reported, ‘If Subway were suddenly to merge with Burger King and Starbucks, McDonalds would still rank No. 1.’
“Mr. Thompson, I believe McDonalds can improve its fortunes by returning to a family focus.”
Just yesterday, McDonalds reported that its earnings continued to decline.
In the letter, the PTC enclosed a copy of research findings from the Association of National Advertisers’ Alliance for Family Entertainment, which found that the context of the program has a significant impact on viewers’ perceptions of advertising. An additional 10.7% of the audience improved their opinion about purchasing a brand when the ad was placed in a “family friendly” program versus a program with adult themed content.
In addition, proprietary research from America’s biggest retailer, Walmart, found an 18% improvement in performance of an ad when the ad was placed in a positive program as opposed to a negative program. Researchers at Iowa State University also found that viewers are less likely to recall the products advertised if the ad appears in the context of a program that contains high levels of sex and violence.
The PTC created a web page for McDonalds so that the company can review what programs its ad purchases can be found on. It’s available at this link: www.parentstv.org/McDonalds.
The full letter can be found here: http://w2.parentstv.org/MediaFiles/PDF/General/PTC_ltr_McD_2014_04_04.pdf .