McDonald’s has pulled a TV advertisement in the U.K. after being accused of exploiting the feelings of children who have lost a parent.
The 90 second ad, which was produced by an outside agency, depicts a young man struggling with the loss of his father.
The boy is shown asking his mother a series of questions about his late dad: Did he have blue eyes? Was he good at football?
The mother’s answers suggest that father and son have little in common. Their eye color, physical appearance and interests are all different.
Then the boy and his mother arrive at McDonald’s, where he orders a Filet-O-Fish sandwich.
“That was you dad’s favorite too,” says the mother.
More than 150 people have complained about the advertisement to the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority, accusing the fast food chain of exploiting bereaved children. Many critics recalled their own experiences of losing a parent.
“I am sickened and disgusted by this advert. Lost my dad at nine. Memories? Yes. Burger? No! Shameful ad McDonald’s,” said a Twitter user named Cate Wilson.
McDonald’s has apologized and asked broadcasters to pull the advertisement from rotation.
“It was never our intention to cause any upset. We are particularly sorry that the advert may have disappointed those people who are most important to us — our customers,” the company said in a statement.
McDonald’s said that while the ad has been pulled, it may appear again on Wednesday due to “the lead-times required by some broadcasters.”
Matt Wilson, a press officer at the Advertising Standards Authority, said the regulator would asses whether there are grounds to launch an investigation.
“Complainants have objected that it is inappropriate and insensitive to use bereavement and grief to sell fast food,” said Wilson.
The outside agency that created the ad for McDonald’s, Leo Burnett Group, declined to comment.