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Catholics Criticize Ad and McDonald's Caves -- As Usual

Who is crazier: The Catholic Church in the Philippines -- which denounced a McDonald's (MCD) ad because it "could pave the way for the very young to be lax and carefree" -- or McDonald's, which pulled the ad at the church's request? Here is the commercial. I defy you to find anything offensive about it:


The translation is that the girl asks, "Can I be your girlfriend?" The boy replies: "I don't want to. I'm not ready. Girlfriends are demanding. They want this, they want that." It turns out all she wants is French fries, and the boy nearly gets to hold her hand. Aww!

Here was the reaction of Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' conference of the Philippines' Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs:

It could give the wrong message to children that it's all right to enter into a courtship, and it could pave the way for the very young to be lax and carefree.
And Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP's Episcopal Commission on Family and Life:
The ad must be replaced ... It should go. It will be viewed by many children, especially this summer when they are on vacation.
You're teaching commitment but you are basing it on so shallow a thing as French-fries. That's not a good signal, especially since you are targeting youth.
Presumably, McDonald's pulled the ad because 90 percent of Filipinos are Catholics and the company didn't want to start some sort of culture war. But this was an act of corporate cowardice -- surely not even the strictest Catholic (Castro and Iniguez aside) could read the commercial as being about anything other than a joke about childhood innocence. It was a "war" McDonald's would have won. But then, McDonald's official ad policy is to be as cowardly as possible. Consider the history:

2010: McDonald's COO Don Thompson said the company would not air a gay-themed ad in the U.S. because "I'm a Christian" and such an ad was not "the cultural norm" in the U.S. McDonald's did air the ad in France:


2005: McDonald's apologizes for running a commercial in China that featured a man begging for a discount. Pleading on one's knees is considered humiliating in China, apparently.

2003: McDonald's pulls an ad in Australia that showed different types of people labelled with the coffee they choose at McCafe. A tall African-American basketball players was labelled as "short black coffee." (McDonald's had even vetted the ad for minority sensitivity prior to airing.)

2001: McDonald's pulls a commercial showing a father bribing his daughter with fries in order to play a joke on her mom at the request of a single Philippines senator. Here is the spot:


The problem is that in its desire to never offend anyone, anywhere, ever, McDonald's is vulnerable to being forced to remove any type of advertising that gets criticized for any possible reason. It was not always this way. Back in the 1980s, McDonald's had no problem portraying the Irish as a bunch of step-dancing leprechauns:


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