McDonald’s has scaled up the “lets pull back the curtain” faux-transparency approach they piloted with Canadian mommy bloggers about a year ago (I blogged about that initiative here).
Now McDonald’s has a whole campaign around answering your questions in an open, honest way. They claim “we’ll answer any questions about our food.” In some ways this campaign is very encouraging. It shows that McDonald’s is feeling some pressure about their business practices and about the quality of their food. So, food activists who have worked hard to shine a light on everything from pink slime to non-disintegrating Big Macs can pat themselves on the back.
On the other hand, it’s interesting to see what passes for “answering questions.” What I see when I review the questions and answers on McDonald’s dedicated question/answer website are a lot of clever (or not so clever) rhetorical devices standing in for answers.
Here’s what I mean by way of one example:
Not to nit-pick, but is this an answer to the simple question about whether (or not) the food is healthy? It appears not.
Let’s take a moment to pull this apart, shall we?
- The opener: “We’re proud of our food.” Um, don’t remember asking. Seriously, who asked ya? According to McD’s site, they won’t answer questions from the public if they deem them to contain “subjective comments or statements.” So, is your personal expression of pride not a subjective statement? And anyway, what does it have to do with anything.
- We “believe it can be part of a balanced diet.” Now that’s some tricky jargon. And you believe? That seems subjective to me. “Part of a healthy diet” which part is that? Years ago Nestlé was a client of mine (obviously different agency) and they used precisely this kind of jargon when the obesity epidemic hit :”All foods can be part of a healthy diet eaten in moderation.” It’s just a cover-up that keeps them from admitting that no, their food is not healthy.
- “We offer a variety of nutrition minded options….” This is a classic misdirection. It’s like a shell game. Don’t want someone to see that you have an object in your right hand, wave your left hand all over the place. Sure you serve apples (with caramel sauce), but that doesn’t erase the fact that much of the other crap you serve is decidedly not healthy.
- “We encourage you to look at our Making Informed Choices Page.” Yes, there’s information on the page. Lots of it. Information about how to eat healthier , about McD’s nutrition calculator that tell you how many calories, fat, etc. are in the food you’ll find at McDonalds. So, now I know that an Angus burger with bacon has 780 calories and 44 grams of fat. But providing information doesn’t make your food healthy. Now, if you could please just answer the question.
The disheartening part of all of this is that McDonald’s has spent so much time, money and energy on not answering your questions. Why bother? Because the pressure’s on. That’s the good news in all of this. Some marketing executive somewhere feels that the public needs to hear McD’s answer to its critics.
I for one find this expression of faux transparency refreshingly revealing.