Starting next year, Sweden will reinstate its draft, which means that 4,000 men and women will be selected for military training. Conscription—known colloquially in Sweden as Lumpen—was eliminated in 2010, but due to Russia's ever-increasing aggression and fist-shaking, the largely neutral country decided that it might want to have enough personnel to defend itself, just in case.
Until those several thousand teenagers are employed by the Swedish Armed Services, they could always work at McDonalds because—according to a new commercial—those two jobs are basically interchangeable. No, really.
In a new campaign in Sweden, McDonald's tries to draw parallels between the military and its own uniformed ranks.
As day breaks in the dramatic advertisement, some real-life McDonald's workers prepare for a day in the trenches, in that harsh, unforgiving square footage between the cash registers and the McFlurry machines. "In uniform, we are all equal," a serious voiceover intones. "Gender, ethnic background or sexual orientation is irrelevant. Nobody cares which god you pray to, or if you don't pray at all. All we demand is that you're a problem solver and focused on the goal."
In the U.S., this ad would be considered ridiculous at best, tone deaf at worst. And considering the backlash the fast-food giant recently received for its creepy dead-dad advertisement, it's surprising that the company is continuing to be so bold in its marketing.
But in Sweden, perhaps McDonald's makes a compelling argument, one that possibly only works in Scandinavia.
McDonald's says that it has "taught hundreds of thousands of young Swedes the importance of self-discipline, team spirit, and cooperation." According to a recently released report, the first McDonald's opened in Sweden on October 27, 1973 and, in the years since, it has become the country's largest employer of "young people," putting almost 150,000 Swedes to work in the four decades since. It currently has around 12,000 employees in 215 restaurants throughout the country.
The company quotes history professors and researchers about the role that national military service played in "[keeping] society together," and giving men (in its previous incarnation, only males were drafted into the military) the opportunity to meet across class divisions and to work with people they might not have otherwise engaged with. "Everyone wore the same uniform and worked towards the same goals," McDonald's writes in its report. "This forged a sense of comradeship, that you then took with you to your office job, factory job or academic career. It was a course in citizenship."
That's the role that McDonald's hopes to play, possibly even after Lumpen comes back. It says that it has even "borrowed"—its word—a Swedish Armed Forces questionnaire to ask its own employees what skills working under the Golden Arches has taught them, and the results include Maturing as a Person, Learning to Cooperate with Other People, and Learning to Lead Others. (Surprisingly, 62 percent of McDonald's workers ticked that last box, compared to 49 percent of Armed Forces personnel).
Back in that commercial, the voiceover continues. "Self-discipline, team spirit and cooperation […] has been shown to be the recipe for diversity, integration and really, really good hamburgers," it says.
Regardless, draft or not, uniforms or not, there's a good chance that Sweden's only battle is between McDonald's and Max Burgers for who serves the best patties.