This last week, a lot of fuss has been made about the McDonalds ‘dead Dad’ TV advert that first aired in the UK last week. In a bid to reach its customers with an emotional and touching TV campaign, McDonalds used the theme of bereavement with a storyline of a young boy asking his mother about his deceased father. They failed, horribly.
If you have not yet seen the advert, you can watch it here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1XM4INk8l8
The argument that many people who are for the advert seem to be making (from what I have seen on social media) is that the advert ‘has been very well put together’, ‘is a great piece of advertising’ or is ‘touching and sensitive’.
However, these are my personal views and personal opinions based on my own experiences. You may agree, you may not;
If the advert had been for something else, I.E. a charity, it would have been fine, it would have been ‘very well put together’, touching and sensitive. But it wasn’t. It was an advert designed to sell a fucking BURGER. A multi-million pound company saw fit to relate the stresses and emotional turmoil of losing a parent as a child to a Filet-O-Fish. A shameless advertising tactic which is as vile as it is dumbfounding.
As someone who has both lost a parent at a young age and gone on to work with vulnerable young people in a youth work setting and also study the mental health implications of bereavement and trauma, I have never felt so angry and insulted at a television advert in all my life. Do I have a right to be angry? Fuck yes I do, and so do any others that have ever experienced the loss of someone you love.
Losing one of the most important and influential people in your life at any age is heart-breaking and confusing. Losing that person as a child or teenager stays with you for the rest of your life and leaves behind a painful void where your loving Mother or Father should be. Yet, young people are immensely and astoundingly resilient. The defiance and bravery that I have witnessed in young people battling personal traumas that no child or teen should ever have to experience is just amazing. I have seen young women complete their A-Level exams and get accepted into university despite being sexually abused for years, and I have seen young men move into their very first flat independently despite becoming homeless at 15 years old. Bereavement as a trauma is something that affects your life every day. There isn’t a day that wouldn’t have been made different, or maybe warmer, if your Mother or Father were still there with you. I think about my mother every day after losing her at 13 years old, certain things get easier but the loss is still there. After the death of a parent the smallest things can be a battle but we push on and make amazing achievements despite the pain it has caused. Bereavement at a young age is nothing to be belittled, least not by a Happy Meal.
The arbitrary use of childhood bereavement in the advert undermines the feelings of loss, pain, upset and upheaval that are felt after the death of a parent. Not because it isn’t a ‘well made’ advert, but because that pain and emotional pull is being used to sell cheeseburgers. To exploit the anguish that young people feel after a bereavement in this way is disrespectful, crude and corrupt. It is not ok to use death as a way to market fast food.
Families should not have to watch a TV advert in the comfort of their own homes while watching Britain’s Got Talent that makes them feel capitalised upon for losing a loved one. Bereaved families aren’t yours market or cash in on, McDonalds. Bereavement moulds and shapes our lives and the people we become. It turns us into warriors, worriers, thinkers, doers, introverts and extroverts. Whoever we become after losing someone we love, it becomes a part of our identity. McDonalds, you took that part of our identity and cashed it into a burger.
So, McDonalds, if you want to go ahead and advertise your products then please do so. If you want to do your bit to help families experiencing trauma, again, please do so. But don’t get the two confused. If you’d like help on how to do the latter, myself or charities such as Winston’s Wish or Childhood Bereavement UK are here to help. Childhood bereavement is not a taboo subject, and is in fact something that should be talked about as a way of helping individuals, schools, families and society tackle the issues that come with it. But there is a way and a how that doesn’t involve promoting a Big Mac.
Winston’s Wish and Childhood Bereavement UK do amazing work with children, teenagers and families suffering from bereavement. Please take a look at what they do;