by: Kristen Manias

It is widely understood that the bigger a company gets, the higher scrutiny it receives.  For this reason, it is no surprise that McDonald’s has been the brunt of criticism lately.  Whether it is the nutritional quality of its beef or the animal cruelty of its suppliers, McDonald’s is constantly battling the image and perception of its brand.

The latest controversy McDonald’s is battling is the use of gestation crates.  McDonald’s announced Monday that it is requiring its pork suppliers to phase out their gestation crates, but a deadline of this phase out is unclear.  These crates house pregnant sows and are so small that the cows are unable to even turn around.  McDonald’s is one of the nation’s largest buyers of pork especially for its menu items such as the McRib and the Sausage McMuffin.  This announcement was part of a joint decision with the Humane Society of the United States.

In April of last year, McDonald’s dropped one of its egg suppliers after ABC News and Mercy for Animals conducted a private investigation into the farms. Videos were taken which showed multiple FDA violations, dead birds in cages, cages too small for the birds to spread their wings, and chicks being inexplicably crushed in workers hands.  After viewing the video, McDonald’s immediately severed their contract with the supplier.

Although making strides to maintain its corporate responsibilities, many of these ‘responsible’ changes McDonald’s enacts are not made until a group or person first presents them to the general public.  The company’s willingness to listen to the public and make changes is a step in the right direction, but moral and responsible business practices should be on the forefront of any company’s mind at all times, not just as a cover for bad press.

It is this criticism of the company that may have something to do with the inconsistencies in sales and brand perception, as an article in Ad Age recently reported on.  Although sales rose 5.6%, McDonald’s is consistently in the bottom of the barrel when it comes to quality perception.  According to a Marketing and Research firm, McDonald’s often ranks high on variety, affordability, kid appeal and convenience, but low on taste, quality, healthfulness and friendliness.

To battle these failing perceptions, McDonald’s recently launched a supplier-focused ad campaign (DDB Chicago).  Each ad focuses on a different supplier such as potatoes or lettuce and even beef.  They give a ‘real’ look into the quality of the people as well as the product McDonald’s works with.  After recent news it is almost too obvious how much McDonald’s is trying to force a different perception onto its consumers, but considering McDonald’s increase in sales it seems as if the ads may be doing the trick.  As a consumer, it is important to distinguish between companies that act responsibly and those that portray responsibility as a marketing technique.

Sources:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-11-18/news/chi-mcdonalds-drops-egg-supplier-over-animal-cruelty-report-20111118_1_egg-farmers-animal-welfare-egg-supplier

http://adage.com/article/news/mcdonald-s-losing-lovin-feeling/232821/?page=1

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wayne-pacelle/mcdonalds-gestation-crates_b_1273108.html

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Written by Ad Buzz

The American Advertising Federation Illinois Chapter brings to you Ad Buzz, a blog dedicated to all things advertising related, from our favorite campaigns to trends going on in the industry.

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