• From Billions Served to Billions Heard: But Have They Finally Heard You?

    by  • January 6, 2015 • Advertiser Accountability • 5 Comments


    This week, fast-food behemoth McDonald’s announced a new strategy to move its marketing in a more positive direction. We can’t help but wonder if this new direction might not have been prompted, at least in part, by the PTC’s repeated calls over the past several months for McDonald’s to reconsider its marketing strategy.

    Last January, after McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson told investors during a conference call that they needed to “re-establish the trust of customers,” the PTC penned an open letter to Thompson, telling him that a key strategy in reestablishing that trust must be remembering the families that have been the cornerstone of the McDonald’s brand for decades, and once again pursuing a family-friendly ad strategy.

    In the weeks and months that followed, the PTC kept pressure on McDonald’s, pushing back when the once-family-friendly brand’s ads appeared on programs that had offensive or gratuitous content such as Fox’s Family Guy, or VH1’s Dating Naked. PTC efforts culminated in a major social media push ahead of the McDonald’s corporate shareholder meeting last spring.

    Though McDonald’s did not publicly respond, they started quietly pulling ad spots from the most problematic programs we were writing to them about.

    PR Week notes that McDonald’s is trying to inject “more ‘positivity’ into its advertising and marketing,” and what better way to do that than by abandoning an ad strategy that saw McDonald’s supporting some of the most explicit sexual content and graphic violence on television?

    In a video to explain the new strategy, McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer, Deborah Wahl (@dlwahl1) explains that the company is moving from a philosophy of “billions served” to “billions heard.” Time will tell, and we will continue to monitor McDonald’s sponsorship behavior, but for now it seems McDonald’s has heard you.






    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    5 Responses to From Billions Served to Billions Heard: But Have They Finally Heard You?

    1. Jonathan
      January 10, 2015 at 10:26 am

      I’d rather see McDonald’s start making good food rather than making advertisements that you deem worthy, even though there is nothing wrong with their marking. Well except promoting horrible food.

    2. January 9, 2015 at 10:21 am

      SO good to hear that Mickey D’s is headed in the right direction – let’s hope everybody else begins to catch up

    3. Barbara
      January 9, 2015 at 10:13 am

      I watched the video that announces the new philosophy. Cuties in Happy Meals is a positive move, but is McDonald’s still also putting ads for adult-rated movies in the Happy Meals also? And the video doesn’t mention cessation of support of family-unfriendly programs. I have avoided McDonalds since 1989 when my son was four years old. I was so incensed by the movie promotion in the Happy Meal that I still lose my appetite and feel my blood pressure rise when I think of it! It was so inappropriate! I will probably never go back to eating at McDonalds, even if they clean up their advertising techniques. It’s too late for me.

    4. David Kachel
      January 9, 2015 at 9:22 am

      I believe at your PTC’s prompting I contacted McDonald’s on their site and told them that if they were going to keep with their current advertising strategy I would have to find another place to eat. That would not be easy for me as I eat there almost every day (love their tea but use Stevia to sweeten it). If everyone that cared about this did that it might make a difference. Maybe that was part of the reason for the change as well. Hopefully they head in the right direction now.

      • January 12, 2015 at 3:21 am

        I have not personally eaten at MCdonalds for some time and I do miss it so would be very happy if they change their practices and I can eat there again.

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