Ethics isn’t usually used in a positive sense when talking about advertising. Usually, the word comes up when people feel that ethics is lacking from an ad, an agency, or let’s just blame the industry as a whole. Where do agencies stand on topics than involve ethical quandaries and what is their loyalties to the client? But perhaps something that doesn’t get enough attention is the ethics of people or place being shown in advertisements. Does these spokes models or towns hold the same values of the product being shown? Is it unethical to show Paris Hilton in a Peta ad one day, but then chomping down on a burger for a Carl’s Jr spot?
These ethical dilemmas are always present in press, but one commercial from across the pond has one particular corporation in hot water.
What do you think of when you think about McDonald’s? Does fast food come to mind? Cheap food? Obesity? Unhealthy? Convenient? America? Many things could describe the mega-chain that is the golden arches, but you might not think about cooking things from scratch. McDonald’s created a commercial for the UK and Ireland that showed farming communities where the fast food restaurant got their products from. Relying on the local sources, McDonald’s was creating a feel for the customer that the food they were eating was in fact from local producers. This may be true, but some of the other scenes of the UK and Ireland, specifically one of a boat in an English peninsula was not representative of McDonald’s at all.
The boat shown, called the Badger and owned by Gloria and Alan Parsons, has a galley that is famous in its own right. The quaint kitchen makes it own food from scratch and didn’t appreciate a big corporation using their local presence as a way to sell themselves. What McDonald’s as a corporation is does not line up with the Badger ethically, so the couple requested that part of the commercial be removed.
AdAge provided me with insight about this article and gathered a quote from Gloria explaining her feelings. “Lots of people were very excited to see the Badger on-screen, but we weren’t…It is our efforts and time and hard work that have made her look as good as she does, and we didn’t want all that to be used to advertise their product. It didn’t seem fair,” Gloria confessed. Barnett never replied to the couple, but the spot was edited after McDonald’s was finally reached via radio.
Why would Barnett want to respond to such a claim? Would it be better if they addressed the ethics in this campaign than just glide over them? I believe that as a creative strategist, one of this things that all new people coming into the industry want to do is change the stigma around advertising. The first step in improving the opinions that people have against the industry is by enacting a very transparent ethical code. I want to be a creative strategist because I know I can help mold the industry and make changes.