A couple of weekends ago I saw the film/documentary Super Size Me. I am sure you have heard of it. In case you haven’t hears the rub: Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock decided to eat nothing but McDonald’s for a month. The result was as catastrophic as the target was easy, with Spurlock getting sick ,swelling by 11kg, losing his libido, suffering depression and at one stage vomiting out of the car window. The film attempts to define the line separating corporate from personal responsibility, which sounds a bit boring, but it is framed so amusingly that is never drags or condescends. I left the cinema feeling pretty bloated myself!
The film has been a huge success in Australia, in the two weeks following it’s June 3 release it has made more that $1.5m.
But like McDonald’s in the US, the Australian arm refused to talk to Spurlock during his publicity tour earlier in the month. But this week, with Spurlock safely back home in the States, it seems as though we have been bombarded with damage control ad’s from McDonalds.
The new ad features McDonald's Australia CEO Guy Russo describing the film as being "about a person that decides to over-eat". But, in a super-sized rebuke to the flick, Mr Russo responds to Spurlock's claims that eating burgers for 30 days is bad for you by saying simply:
"You're right." "Doctors told [Spurlock] to stop after three weeks. I would have told him to stop after one day. Surprise surprise, he finds out it was an error. I could have told him that," Mr Russo says in the commercial
I wonder why they left it so long to carry out this damage control exercise? I would have thought that Macca’s could have been a bit more pro-active with its marketing strategy. McDonald's Australia is the first McDonald's in the world to use advertising to publicly attack the movie. Until now the strategy has been to ignore it, but recent research from customers indicated that McDonald's silence might be taken as an admission of guilt.
McDonalds are guilty all right. Guilty of letting the situation get this far. If they had come out on the front foot a month ago, attacked and debated Mr. Spurlock when he was here they might not be in this PR mess. But they adopted the silent approach, which didn’t work.
Oddly Mr. Russo claims "If someone from America produces a film, and then comes out to Australia and attacks us, I'm not going to take that sitting down."
But, yes you did Mr. Russo!
Like your McFriends in the US, you sat around when Spurlock and wanted to talk to you. You sat in your office, not coming out and not answering calls. Why wouldn’t you talk? If you are that angry and that concerned about the attack on your business, the spreading of misinformation and the risk of being perceived as guilty, why not talk? Why wait?
No doubt they had hoped it would all "blow over". Macca's obviously did't anticipate the success of the film, or the amount of news space the issue of childhood obesity has been getting.
But now Mr. Russo wants to assure us all that McDonalds is not as bad as the movie says. And the spin-doctors, or more accurately McDonald’s ad agency DDB explain that the ad’s aren’t a defensive move, they are about “correcting inaccuracies in the film.”
Sure they are.
Also, I am not sure that these ad's are the type of brand journalism that Larry Light, McDonald's (US) chief marketing officer, has been spouting about. (Seth has a great blog entry on this)
Interestingly, despite McDonald's claims that its healthier options are good and that all is not as grim as it may seem, I have not eaten at the Golden Arches since seeing"Super Size Me".