nettime's_roving_reporter" , on Fri, 1 Oct 1999 17:42:47 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> PETA ads US/UK controversy - 'Marketing' weekly

PETA'S ads targetting Ronald McDonald as 'America's #1 Serial Killer were
planned for display in the UK in November. However, the UK advertising
industry has caused controversy by banning them, even before they were

These are extracts from one of the articles in 'Marketing' (a weekly UK
trade magazine for those working in the advertising industry): 

16th Sept:


McDonald's is under attack from both animal activists and French farmers. 
Can shock PR tactics harm one of the world's biggest brands? 

The image is enough to make even the most hardened burger lover shudder. A
skinned cow, blood dripping down the side of its face, in an abbattoir.
The caption 'Do you want fries with that?' makes the ad's target
immediately obvious..... 

Accused of treating animals badly, damaging the environment and
underpaying its workers, it seems McDonald's can do no right. The problem
is a worldwide one: internet sites such as McSpotlight (which carries a
full transcript of the McLibel trial) have whipped up localised attacks
into something approaching a global backlash. 

'It has got to a stage where people seem willing to believe whatever they
hear about it - from funding the IRA to destroying the ozone layer' says a
former McDonald's account director.

So just how did McDonald's end up as public enemy number one? 


McDonald's took a serious wrong turn in bringing the McLibel trial against
two green campaigners circulating anti-McDonald's leaflets in the UK. This
not only brought many issues about its corporate behaviour into the public
eye for the first time, it also had the effect of making it look paranoid
and power crazy. 

One reason cited by McSpotlight for attacking the compnay is because 'it
takes itself far too seriously'. 

Although the company won the McLibel case, the judge upheld that
McDonald's was guilty of paying low wages to its workers and of cruelty in
the rearing of some of its animals, and criticised the way children were
deliberately targetted by the ads. 

As a result it has been much easier for groups such as Peta to target the
company. 'We are attacking McDonald's because we can - its backed up by
the McLibel verdict' points out Bruce Frederich, Peta's vegetarian
campaign co-ordinator. 

But is McDonald's so much worse than any other fast food chain? Peta says
that as a high-profile corporation, McDonald's needs to set an example.
'All the practices we are attacking are industry-wide' admits Friedrich.
'But we hoped that as an industry giant they could afford to make
improvements which would impact on other fast food chains.'

No matter what McDonald's does, it will always be a bad guy in the eyes of
pressure groups which don't like multinational capitalism, particularly
when its well marketed. 

The McSpotlight site sums it up: 'They are a symbol of all multinationals
who are relentlessly pursuing profits at the expense of anything that
stands in their way.'

So far McDonald's only response to Peta has been to insist that it does
use humane slaughtering methods. 

But last week, when McDonald's marketers gathered in Chicago to celebrate
the 25th anniversary of UK business, you can bet that those ads were on
the agenda. 

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