Of all the issues you’d think it might be natural for McDonald’s to capitalise on to sell junk food, child bereavement probably isn’t one of them.
But this didn’t stop the fast food giant from broaching the subject in its latest British TV advert – and offending viewers in the process.
The emotionally-driven ad features a bereaved woman and her son, who struggles to find anything in common with his dead father until he learns they both enjoyed a McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish.
The campaign, which first aired on 12th May, was created by London-based advertising agency Leo Burnett, and is due to run for seven weeks, the BBC reported.
But bereavement charities, widows and many who were bereaved as children have criticised the company for exploiting the sensitive topic for profit. Bereavement charity Grief Encounter said it has received "countless calls" from people whose bereaved children had been troubled by it.
Dr Shelley Gilbert, the charity's founder and president, said McDonald's had exploited childhood bereavement "to connect with young people and surviving parents alike - unsuccessfully". One in 29 children lose a parent or sibling by the time they are 16 years of age, the charity said.
"Trying to insinuate that a brand can cure all ills with one meal is insensitive and shouldn't be a way to show that a brand recognises 'the big moments in life'," Gilbert told the BBC.
Those who had been personally affected by the issue aired their annoyance on social media.
While others called out McDonald's for its cynical use of a delicate issue to sell fast food.
One woman said it was "irresponsible not to include any support advice or information for families affected by this issue". Leah Miller, 42 from London, told the BBC: "What are children supposed to think after watching it? That a simple meal can solve their emotional pain?"
The Advertising Standards Authority has received complaints about the ad and said it will "carefully assess them to see whether there are grounds to investigate".
McDonald’s responded to the criticism, telling the BBC it “was by no means” the company’s intention to cause offence. "We wanted to highlight the role McDonald's has played in our customers' everyday lives – both in good and difficult times," the spokesperson added, with no suggestion that the company would consider pulling the ad.