• Will McDonald’s Keep Its Word?

    by  • January 13, 2015 • Advertiser Accountability • 10 Comments

    Little more than a week after McDonald’s announced plans to take their advertising in a more “positive” direction, the company that pledged to listen to consumers has apparently turned a deaf ear to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are fed-up with excessive TV sex and profanity directed at kids. McDonalds ads appeared on the most recent episode of  Fox’s Family Guy, supporting content including vulgar references to female and male sexual anatomy and masturbation. In an open letter to McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl, the PTC asks whether McDonald’s is just giving lip-service to listening to customers and injecting more positivity into its advertising and marketing, or if they will also walk the walk by distancing themselves from negative, degrading content like this.


    Dear Ms. Wahl,

    Over the past year, the PTC has made repeated attempts to engage in a dialogue with McDonald’s Corp. about its sponsorship behavior while trying to urge McDonald’s to go in a more positive, family-friendly direction with its television sponsorship. We have been encouraged that although McDonald’s has not responded to any of our outreach efforts, we have seen some positive changes in sponsorship behavior.

    We spent the first few months of 2014 communicating our concerns about McDonald’s paying for jokes about rape, incest and pedophilia on Family Guy to your CEO and Board of Directors. And for a time, it appeared that McDonald’s had quietly pulled its sponsorship dollars from Family Guy. While in the first quarter of 2014, McDonald’s ads were seen on nearly every episode, by the end of the 2013-2014 season, our analysts were no longer seeing ads from McDonald’s.

    Which is why we are so disturbed to see McDonald’s ads appearing once again on episodes of Fox’s Family Guy; especially in light of your recent promise to move McDonald’s marketing in a more positive direction.

    The January 11 episode of Family Guy, which included ads for McDonald’s, featured a vulgar reference to female sexual anatomy (“the stinky ‘V’”), three bleeped f-words, the phrase “jag-off,” and a reference to masturbation:

    Stewie: Hey, Brian. Wanna go see Dr. Hartman and get that procedure where you get two wieners?

    Brian: Whoa! Hell yeah! That way when I watch Black Swan, I can aim one at Natalie Portman and aim the other at –

    Stewie: Yes, yes, we all know who the other one was.

    Ms. Wahl, in announcing McDonald’s new marketing strategy, you yourself said that McDonald’s is moving from a philosophy of “billions served” to “billions heard,” but it seems you still haven’t heard the voices of hundreds of thousands of concerned moms, dads, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who don’t want children exposed to messages like those above. You still haven’t heard the voices of the more than 90% of Americans who believe there is too much sex and profanity on television.

    The environment in which a message runs in part of the message. If you want McDonald’s to inject more “positivity” into its advertising and marketing, you’re not going to get there by paying for jokes about masturbation and female sexual anatomy.

    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.

    Are these just words, or are you committed to reestablishing the trust of customers? Is McDonald’s truly interested in taking their advertising in a more positive direction? Or is this just a gimmick to get some positive press?

    Ms. Wahl, we are calling on you and McDonald’s Corp. to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk. We truly believe that McDonald’s can improve performance and return a higher value to its shareholders simply by making a conscientious effort to avoid associating its ad dollars with highly sexualized, violent and profane television programming and directing its media buyers instead to buy time on family-friendly programs.

    Content like that seen on Family Guy does not reflect well on the McDonald’s brand, and will not help you meet your marketing goals.




    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.

    10 Responses to Will McDonald’s Keep Its Word?

    1. Jonathan
      January 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Sara, explain how I am playing dumb? Sorry that I don’t need the PTC to tell me what is okay for TV. Sorry that I actually look at studies that are not connected to the PTC that disprove everything the PTC says with better evidence. Sorry that I am not attacking a food restaurant for doing something that they have every right to do.

      I study film/TV shows so I actually do know what I am talking about. Anyone who looks into TV marketing would know that McDonalds is doing nothing wroung and is being attacked by a group of people who blindly follow a group who thinks they know what should and shouldn’t be in TV.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        January 20, 2015 at 8:49 am


        it’s always interesting how people, like you, who disagree with the PTC feel the need to insult those who do.

        You don’t have to agree with us. But it’s sad that you claim that anyone who chooses not to shop at McDonalds because they sponsor Seth MacFarlane’s racist, misogynist, rape-and-child-molester trash “needs the PTC to tell [them] what is okay,” and is “blindly following” us.

        Nobody questions the “right” of McDonalds to sponsor whatever they want. But apparently, you DO question the right of people to choose not to shop there. This could just as easily mean that you’re “blindly following” McDonalds and “need” them to “tell you what is okay for TV.”

        See how simple that is? Just dismiss anyone who doesn’t agree with you as a brainwashed moron. It’s very convenient…and much easier than actually proving your case.

    2. Jonathan
      January 13, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      There is nothing wrong about advertising during a show like Family Guy, it’s called good marketing. McDonald’s doesn’t care about the show and nor should they. They care about the views that show gets. I hope they don’t cave into your demands because they have every right to run a ad during whatever show they want.

      • Ann
        January 16, 2015 at 8:05 am

        The fact that McDonald’s would sponsor a piece of filth like Family Guy says little for their reputation as a family eatery. “Good marketing” is another phrase for making money no matter what the cost to your good name. I hope that viewers will decide to patronize corporations that sponsor shows that are decent and entertaining.

        • Jonathan
          January 16, 2015 at 9:53 am

          Well Ann if you knew anything about television you would know that corporations pay the network to air the ad during times with the most viewers, so yes it is good marketing. You air ads during the time slot when people are watching not the time slot with a low amount of people. Not to mention that they do play ads during “Family Friendly” shows.

          • anne
            January 16, 2015 at 7:02 pm

            Sorry, Jonathan–nothing you say is a good excuse for a corporation sponsoring a offensive show. McDonald’s can find shows that are popular with many viewers ; yet are fit for most people to watch.

        • Maria Antonia
          January 16, 2015 at 11:30 am

          Ann: I agree completely with your comment. We have to fight back from these ways of just “making money”, The future of this great nation is in great peril..

          • Jonathan
            January 16, 2015 at 6:54 pm

            There is nothing to fight, they are doing nothing wrong. Are you two really blinded by everything the PTC says? If you really want to fight something why don’t you fight them to start making good food? When they air during this time slot they are targeting that audience that is what the show that is at that time slot. Also the age demographic for Family Guy is 18-40.

        • Sara
          January 17, 2015 at 6:40 am

          Jonathan is playing dumb – being disingenuous. Plus of course he’s a know-it-all with his “if you knew anything about…..” comment.

          • Dana
            January 20, 2015 at 9:47 am

            Know-it-all windbags like this guy are the reason we can’t have nice things!

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