McDonald's apologise for TV advert that 'exploits childhood bereavement'
McDonald's has apologised for "any upset" caused by its new television advert that a charity has said exploits child bereavement.
The ad first screened on May 12 and shows a boy talking with his mother about his late father and wondering what they had in common.
He is then shown sitting in one of the fast food giant's restaurants with his mother, where she reveals that they shared a love of the same burger, a Filet-o-Fish, with the mother saying: "That was your dad's favourite too."
The ad has received criticism on social media, and bereavement charity Grief Encounter said it had received "countless calls" from parents of bereaved children saying it had caused them upset.
A McDonald's spokeswoman said: "We wanted to highlight the role McDonald's has played in our customers' everyday lives - both in good and difficult times.
"We apologise for any upset this advert has caused. This was by no means an intention of ours."
The campaign, from London-based advertising agency Leo Burnett, is scheduled to run for seven weeks.
Dr Shelley Gilbert, founder and president of the charity, said: "McDonald's have attempted to speak to their audience via an emotionally driven TV campaign.
"However, what they have done is exploit childhood bereavement as a way to connect with young people and surviving parents alike - unsuccessfully.
"We fully support children and surviving parents remembering loved ones with memory boxes, family experiences which remind them of happier times and openly talking about the member of the family that has died.
"But trying to insinuate that a brand can cure all ills with one meal is insensitive and shouldn't be a way to show that a brand recognises 'the big moments in life'."
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it had received around 100 complaints regarding the advert as of yesterday from viewers objecting that it was inappropriate and insensitive to use bereavement and grief to sell fast good, with some referencing the proximity to Father's Day.
A spokeswoman said: "We're carefully assessing the complaints, but no decision has been reached on whether there are grounds to launch an investigation."
One in 29 children in the UK is bereaved of a parent or sibling by the age of 16, according to Grief Encounter, which offers support to bereaved children and their families.
Sarah Revans, from London, whose husband died following a bleed to the brain in summer 2015, said the ad had caused their son distress.
She said: "He hated being the child at school whose dad died, hated people staring at us in the street, so much so we have moved from the area for a fresh start. He's doing so well at school now.
"The advert breaks his heart. He said it makes him sad the boy is told he isn't like his dad. He's sad that McDonald's have made it seem that children should never be sad about daddy or mummy going to heaven."
Dr Gilbert added: "Bereavement is a hugely sensitive subject to tackle in the media, and should be done with the utmost sensitivity and respect.
"Whilst we applaud the use of a taboo subject such as childhood bereavement, perhaps it would have been advisable to consult with a bereavement charity, or pledge to donate some funds to a bereavement charity in recognition of offering support."