According to The Australian:
“The McDonald’s advertiser-funded program on Seven won its 9.30pm timeslot last night with an average audience of 761,000.
The fast food giant paid for“McDonald’s Get Grilled” to be produced by independent house WTFN and Seven scheduled the show despite it being a thinly-veiled advertisement…”
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“A show about and funded entirely by McDonald’s, which shows lettuce being washed in chlorine and sugar added to fries, rated with 761,000 viewers on Seven last night.
The show, called McDonald’s Gets Grilled, made the top five most-watched shows in the 18-49 and 16-39 demographics…”
According to various media reports quoting McDonald’s and the production company it hired to make the show, the program was “not an ad”.
Many others disagree. Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, argues below that the blurring of editorial and advertising boundaries is an ongoing concern for public health.
Now this is where McDonald’s really gets grilled
Jane Martin writes:
Super Size Me it was not! Morgan Spurlock need not worry about being upstaged by the investigative producers of McDonald’s Gets Grilled.
In case you missed the first frame, this was a documentary funded by McDonald’s but touted as being produced by an independent production company. Channel 7 has revealed just how stupid it thinks its audience is.
Last night’s behind-the-scenes documentary on where and how Maccas’ food is created would be funny if it wasn’t a sad indictment on the state of advertising on the TV networks in Australia. It’s also unfortunately the yellow canary of things to come.
Earlier this year, McDonald’s tested the water on TV with the first ever, prime-time, sponsored-content game show – It’s A Knockout! A full hour over the school holidays during key children’s viewing time, in which to throw around your slogan, embed branding into the set and pop Ronald and Grimace characters into the game as well.
Having gotten away with this without a word from the Australian Communications and Media Authority, McDonald’s has taken the next step in its brand strategy – funding and developing programs. Or very thinly veiled advertising purporting to be a ‘myth busting’ telly-investigation – the very issue it has, in the past, addressed thorough paid ad campaigns.
It’s hard to take this self-funded documentary seriously. The ad folks who created it were obviously bright enough to consider that the great unwashed wouldn’t swallow it whole without some level of scrutiny so they gave us the tip about the sugar-coated chips and the phosphates but pretty much glossed over everything thing else – including how those beef patties came to look that way.
The choice of investigators including Kuppy, the lawyer; Rob, the cynical semi-retiree; and Eleni, the young mum and HR Manager was particularly interesting and yet another part of the brand strategy – appealing to AB demographics; professionals and young mums.
It featured leading questions such as: “Kuppy you’re a lawyer, do you still think it’s bad for you?” And “Eleni, you’re a new mother, is it still on the family menu?”
There were also some very timely questions by our fearless inquisitors such as “so the chickens are free range, where are the cages?”. Queries like these couldn’t have been more beautifully orchestrated if they’d been scripted.
Steve Liebmann’s narration also attempted to add an ‘objective’ element with lines such as “all week Briar’s been critical of McDonald’s food, what will she think now?” – when Briar had been about as negative as a kids show host.
And while Rob’s conversion to McDonald’s at the end might have been a surprise to him, it certainly wasn’t to those of us who were still bothering to watch this shameless piece of confection. He even managed to get the fast food chain’s key message into his response.
The key message from this hour-long ad seemed to be that McDonald’s food is no worse for you than something you make in your kitchen at home, from ingredients you bought at the supermarket. Hence the long-winded questioning about the buns and how they were basically identical cousins to the ones you buy at a supermarket.
The real questions that people should be asking are – did Channel 7 actually pay McDonalds for this content or was it the other way around? And how brazen will the next step in McDonald’s strategy be?
Will the contestants of My Kitchen Rules be making Big Macs as one of the cook-off challenges? Will the hot dates from Marry My Boy be set in the well-lit romantic environs of a McCafe? Will Better Homes and Gardens start landscaping chicken barns for Inghams?
McDonald’s Gets Grilled sets a dangerous precedent – blurring the lines between advertising and editorial.
• You can follow the Obesity Policy Coalition on Twitter