McDonald’s names victims of police brutality, racist violence in new ad

Dive Brief:

  • McDonald’s released a new video on Twitter that takes a stand against systemic oppression, police brutality and racist violence.
  • The 60-second spot names seven black people who have been killed by police or others: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. The list of names precedes several lines of text: “He was one of us. She was one of us. They were all one of us,” followed by language around how McDonald’s says it sees its customers, employees and franchisees in these victims.
  • The ad goes on to say the brand stands with black communities and announces donations to the National Urban League and the NAACP. It closes with a black square with white text that reads: “Black Lives Matter.”

Dive Insight:

McDonald’s is taking a stand to support protesters across the nation, who have taken to the streets to protest racism and inequality after black Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed after being kneeled on by a police officer while in custody.

Taking a note from protestors, many of whom name victims of police brutality and other gun violence on their signs at rallies, McDonald’s has named seven people who have been killed in recent years at the hands of officers and others.

The ad comes just two days after Blackout Tuesday, a social media movement that began with music streaming services from major digital media platforms including Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music and Spotify made their channels dark in support of the protests. Consumers also took to Instagram to share black squares, a virtual billboard for the cause. Many people also shared black squares promoting the human rights movement Black Lives Matter and suggested places to donate. The final slide in McDonald’s video is reminiscent of this social media phenomenon.

The ad follows Nike’s recent “For Once, Don’t Do It” ad that features a black background and white text with a message that asks people not to “pretend there is not a problem in America” and not to turn their backs on fighting racism. The ad closes with, “Let’s all be part of the change.” Nike’s latest spot has so far been perceived as mostly positive, early results by Ace Metrix show, signaling that McDonald’s new video may rally consumers. However, while consumers reported feeling empowered by the Nike clip, some respondents still considered it exploitative because they felt the corporation was leveraging this situation to sell shoes.

McDonald’s new ad has already faced some criticism for being hypocritical to the fast food giant’s actions. The video follows McDonald’s employees in 20 cities went on strike to pressure the chain into improving protections for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. A tweet in the comments section by the ACLU argues that McDonald’s is perpetuating racism and oppressing by failing to protect the health of its workers.

“You haven’t even responded to our letter demanding paid sick and family leave for all employees, the majority of whom are Black or non-Black people of color,” the ACLU tweet reads.

When brands take on social movements, consumers expect them to live by what they say. If McDonald’s is going to turn a rallying cry like Black Lives Matter into a campaign slogan, the chain will be held to the test of consumers who ask what actions McDonald’s is taking to actively support the movement. The fast food giant pledges to donate to the National Urban League and the NAACP, per the video, but didn’t specify details about how much or when those donations would take place, which could be seen as insufficient by some consumers.

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