Will “Gay Friendly” McDonald’s Ad Air in the U.S.?

It was a surprise to me to find that McDonald’s has a history as a gay friendly company. According to Bnet.com:

McDonald’s has been building a reputation for tolerance for years. The company is a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and has supported Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a national organization that helps build gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in the workplace. Both those moves earned it boycott drives from right-wing groups.

Until McDonald’s gets a gluten-free menu I can’t eat there, but this kind of corporate conduct makes me more likely to consume a company’s products. And perhaps some day extreme right-wing groups will learn that their boycotts are a reason I will see a film.

Now McDonald’s is showing an advertisement in France that I love. Watch it and then I will explain why.

This ad is the subject of much controversy from both the right wing and queer press. Queerty.com has mocked the effort and comments there and elsewhere note the contrast between the cheerful boy and his being closeted with his dad. Would a teenage boy hiding his sexuality from his father be that happy about it? I doubt it. It is not a realistic scene.

But gay teens need to see themselves in commercials. The ad does strike me as sweet and does seem likely to make gay teens feel less alienated. The tag line “Come As You Are” sends a good message about welcoming diversity. Yeah, there is a sexual double entendre but perhaps it isn’t there in French. The French corporate statement about the intent of the ad is implausible.

Nathalie Legarlantezec, brand director at McDonald’s France, explains: “We wanted to take a look at how French society is today. We’re very comfortable with the topic of homosexuality, there is obviously no problem with homosexuality in France today.”

Seriously? Gay marriage isn’t legal in France. But still, I like the ad. I know at least one gay teen who would see himself and feel good. Nice try McDonald’s.

The story unfortunately can’t end there. Bill O’Reilly did a segment on his show last night in which he implicitly compared gay people to Al Qaeda. Of course this nasty bit of commentary has created a backlash. Despite the controversy, the ad has gone viral on YouTube with over two million views as of now. But McDonald’s is now on the spot. “Will McDonald’s Dare Run its Gay TV Ad in the U.S.?” I hope it does.

Meanwhile, you can watch it here via Youtube. And you can show it to your kids so that diversity is normal to them. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is demanding an apology from Bill O’Reilly and his network FOX and they should give it. The GLAAD “Call to Action” includes a list of advertisers if you want to exert more pressure. I don’t watch Bill O’Reilly. I don’t understand why anyone does. I hope this incident will make those who do reconsider why they do.

Now watch the ad again. It will make you feel good about what the world might be like in that place between where we are now and where we will be when teenagers can talk openly with their parents about being gay.


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  • SJCipolla June 8, 2010 There is obviously a strong business case for McDonald’s to do this sort of ad in parts of Western Europe, e.g., I doubt that running a similar ad on Amsterdam TV would get much local attention. I share both the criticisms and the positives expressed about the value of the ad. I think it will never be shown in the US.Let’s remember that this is advertising by a private multinational corporation that sells horrible, unhealthy food on a global basis. If significant, effective pressure is brought to bear on McDonald’s, it can withdraw any ad anywhere at any time. I don’t have a problem with commending McDonald’s self-interested recognition that advertising targeted to young gay consumers is an appropriate thing to do. But, such commendations must turn to outright, fierce opposition if the company decides to back off under pressure. And, no matter what their glib PR department spews out in response to inquiries about the French ad, withdrawing it from the airwaves under pressure originating from across the Atlantic is not out of the range of probabilities. reply