A gay friendly McDonald’s commercial airing in France this month has become a viral sensation around the world. Millions of people have viewed the ad online and media outlets have covered the story extensively. GLAAD issued a Call to Action after Fox host Bill O’Reilly jokingly suggested that this may lead McDonald’s to produce an ad targeting the international terrorist group, al Qaeda.
This past Sunday the Chicago Tribune asked McDonald’s Operations Chief, Don Thompson to comment about the ad and Thompson confirmed that it will not run in the United States:
Tribune: A French TV ad featuring a gay teen and his father has stirred some controversy — not there, but here. Can you talk about that?
Thompson: It is an example that markets, cultures are very different around the world. (For instance), I've never shied away from the fact that I'm a Christian. I have my own personal beliefs and I don't impose those on anybody else. I've been in countries where the majority of the people in the country don't believe in a deity or they may be atheist. Or the majority of the country is Muslim. Or it may be the majority is much younger skewed. So when you look at all these differences, it's not that I'm to be the judge or the jury relative to right or wrong. Having said that, at McDonald's, there are core values we stand for and the world is getting much closer. So we have a lot of conversations. We're going to make some mistakes at times. (We talk) about things that may have an implication in one part of the world and may be the cultural norm in another part of the world. And those are things that, yes, we're going to learn from. But, you're right, that commercial won't show in the United States.
Tribune: How has it done in France?
Thompson: Interestingly enough, there have been no negatives coming out of France. The brand is a local brand and different things will occur in different parts of the world. We just have to make sure that we understand the impact one action may make on another part of the world.
It’s disappointing that McDonald’s is not airing the commercial in the United States. And Thompson’s suggestion that the decision to air it in France might have been a “mistake” is equally troubling.
According to Conde' Nast's Portfolio.com "the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to McDonald's CEO James Skinner telling him it was offensive for [McDonald's] to run the ad only in France and that the organization was severing ties with the company."
Thompson also seems to suggest that “cultural norms” in this country would prevent such an ad from being widely accepted. Other U.S. based companies have recently taken bold steps in LGBT inclusive in advertising campaigns. In the fall of 2009 GLAAD honored those companies at our first GLAAD Media Awards in Advertising event. Levi's, Orbitz, Allstate and other corporations are stepping up to the plate and demonstrating their commitment to marketing to the LGBT community. Those same companies have diversity policies mandating that they treat their LGBT employees with respect and offer them the same benefits straight employees are afforded.
GLAAD challenges not only McDonald’s but all companies to create LGBT inclusive ad campaigns for markets around the world, including here in the United States. McDonald’s should strongly consider recreating the French gay friendly ad for the U.S. market.
GLAAD’s Advertising Media Program, incorporating the former The Commercial Closet Association, became a program of GLAAD in 2009. In addition to housing a comprehensive database of LGBT-themed ads with analysis and commentary, GLAAD will be advocating for fair, accurate and inclusive images in ad media and working with advertising media professionals to provide consultation and training on LGBT visibility and issues.