"You could get a museum tour for $5," a male narrator says in a McDonald’s radio spot that was briefly circulating in Canada last week. The voice of a female docent interrupts the narrator to chirpily explain that the dinosaurs were simply “there and then they weren’t” before instructing patrons to exit through the gift shop.
“Or," our narrator suggests, "You could get a McDonald's McPick meal."
These 15 seconds of audio, meant to shill a $5 deal on chicken sandwiches, medium fries, and soda, incensed swaths of Canada's museum sector who felt that McDonald's was punching down at sacred cultural institutions. So swift and severe was the backlash to the ad that McDonald's pulled the radio spot from airwaves last Thursday, the CBC reported last week.
One of the most vocal critics of the ad was Tracy Calogheros, CEO of Exploration Place Museum in Prince George. Though the radio spot did not name any dinosaur display in particular, Calogheros felt that the jab was targeted and personal when she first heard the ad, as Exploration Place has quite a handsome dinosaur display of its own. She chastised the chain for its "thoughtless" and "insulting" decision to air the ad.
“Museums right across the country are generally speaking not for profit and/or registered charities," Calogheros told the broadcasting service of the ad, explaining that her museum had issued a press release objecting to the ad's existence. "So to have an organisation that is a multinational, for-profit company trash us to feed their bottom line really is disgraceful.” She suggested that the fast food chain "pick on someone its own size."
Soon, the wider network of museums in British Columbia got word of the ad, and the British Columbia Museums Association had reportedly been flooded with complaints from members who couldn't believe that the fast food chain would have the audacity to attack the culture sector so glibly.
"I would estimate that we received email responses from 20 members, and saw approximately 50 people or organisations connect us to their social media posts [about the ad]," Ben Fast, the Association's Programs and Member Services Coordinator, wrote MUNCHIES over email on Tuesday. "We recognise McDonald's Canada did not wish to harm museums, and their ad was meant to be funny, but the community's reaction showed how people took the ad and how important cultural organisations are to local communities."
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Both Fast and Calogheros noted that McDonald's Canada was quite receptive to this barrage of criticism, pulling the ad last Thursday. “McDonald’s Canada made a point of calling me directly to offer their apology and to let me know that they were going to pull the ads immediately," Calogheros wrote MUNCHIES over email on Tuesday. "There is no doubt in my mind that they did not intend to offend the Museum industry, nor did they mean to discount the value of informal learning to society at large.”
Though McDonald’s Canada did not respond to immediate request for comment from MUNCHIES on Tuesday regarding when it first began circulating the ad, company spokesperson Adam Grachnik told CBC over email that it didn't mean to broadcast an ad that was perceived as myopic and insensitive.
"It was meant as a humorous way of promoting the new $5 McPick Meal Deal, and in no way meant to offend," Grachnik wrote to the CBC. "We appreciate that museums are trusted, respected and informative places about Canadian culture and apologise for any offense."
Good to hear. Please leave my dinosaur museums alone.