Monday, May 26, 2014

Just A Game Of Futbol: McDonald's in Australia

The football World Cup is almost upon us. Advertising by official sponsors of the tournament has already arrived, and not everyone is happy with it. McDonald's, presumably in the absence of any Brazilian restaurants, is the official restaurant of the tournament. To mark this involvement, the burger giant is taking the radical step of temporarily dispensing with its usual french-fries dispenser. New designs will take the place of the traditional box and will come with a mobile app game, to boot.

This dramatic departure from tradition is all about communicating with Millennials, says McDonald's senior director of global marketing. This is a generation which loves art, unique customisation and McDonald's french fries. Does it really. The senior executive vice-president global chief brand officer of McDonald's (which is a hell of  a long job title) says that it's all about "bringing fun, innovative programming to our customers and celebrating our shared love of futbol".

Whatever you say, Misters senior director of global marketing and senior executive vice-president global chief brand officer, but wait one moment. What is it that we all have a shared love of? Football? No, futbol. That's what it says in the quote I have lifted from Spain has come to dominate world football, and it would now appear that the Spanish language has taken over and turned football into futbol. Or maybe it only has done in McDonald's-land. (There should, some of you might appreciate, be an accent over the u, but let's not get too pedantic.)

But hang on another moment, does the non-appearance of the accent, if only in the article, imply something more political? The word is identical in Catalan except for one important difference. There is no accent. Well, well. Its absence almost certainly doesn't imply anything political, but in these linguistically-fraught and correct times, one can't be too careful. Just as one can't be too careful about the type of image one wishes to portray in an advert. Which brings me to the spot of unhappiness.

Down under in Australia, McDonald's, in good Aussie tradition of giving any name some matey version, is known as Macca, which is not to confuse it with a one-time bass player from Liverpool who, in the dim distant past, was once any good. And Macca, as it states on its Aussie website, is "kicking off with an exciting line-up that'll be sure to score goals with your tastebuds". Kicking off the World Cup, that is, with a quite lamentable string of football clichés. Sorry, futbol clichés.

Macca has a series of TV ads. They are to promote World Cup specials for different countries. There are only a few countries for which there is a Macca special - Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, doesn't appear to merit one - but of the few countries, the Spanish entry has caused a bit of a fuss. It's that cliché thing again, this time as in clichéd national stereotyping.

The ad is for the Spain Brekkie Wrap, a delicious-looking item that features sausage, scrambled egg and ketchup. It is only fifteen seconds long, but the ad manages to pack in as many clichés as are possible in such a short period of time. In the ad there are two what one guesses are futbol commentators. Commentator one announces the delicious contents before breaking into "olé, olé, olé" and inspiring commentator two, till then sour-faced and bearing a striking resemblance to Saddam Hussein with a matador's hat on, to become animated, stick a rose in his mouth and mime the playing of a flamenco guitar.

While one might conclude that the ad's crime is in being rotten as opposed to being offensive, commentators who have posted on McDonald's España Facebook page are in no doubt that it is both rotten and offensive. "Is anyone going to do something about it? Can we sink any lower?" "Are you not ashamed? Spain, its culture, people and products deserve respect." "The advert is demeaning to Spanish and Hispanic culture. Then there's the sandwich. Two shitty sausages masquerading as chorizos with scrambled egg without seasoning. This is a Spanish sandwich?" "The advert is a disgrace. It ridicules us."

At least one poster points out that the ad is not intended for broadcast in Spain and so says that it is not offensive just ignorant. But his is the only comment with a moderate opinion among the others. The strength of these opinions, not that they are likely to have any impact, do serve to remind us all, including McDonald's, that we live in a joined-up world. What's good for Australia is not good for Spain, and moreover, the Spanish are going to find out and have done.

The World Cup, the global game, the global media of social networks. If only it were just a game of futbol.

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