McDonald’s won’t market to gay customers

Timothy Kincaid

June 15th, 2010

Don Wildmon, the American Family Association’s director, will periodically declare war on some company or other (usually for undecipherable reasons), get some coverage at WorldNetDaily, send out some fund letters, declare success! (again for undecipherable reasons) and move on to his next target. Back in 2008 the target was McDonald’s. It seems that McDonald’s contributed to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce which meant, somehow, that the company was “endorsing the homosexual agenda”.

When the company’s employee who was on the board of NGLCC moved out of the country, AFA declared victory.

A corporate executive for McDonald’s restaurants who had been on board of directors of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has stepped down following a boycott of the chain organized by the pro-family American Family Association.

McDonald’s officials confirmed today to WND that Richard Ellis, who had been named to the “gay” chamber board after McDonald’s contributed $20,000 to the organization, “made a personal decision to step down” after he accepted a new position with McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada.

At the time, I wrote this off as coincidental. But perhaps the AFA had more of an impact on McDonald’s than I thought. Or, as new information suggests, perhaps AFA’s message found a sympathetic ear at McDonald’s.

Now a new issue has arisen to get anti-gays into a dither, and McDonald’s response is disturbing. It involves a McDonald’s advertisement which ran on French television.

This charming ad – part of a larger campaign welcoming everyone to come as they are – is not offensive. It is not sexual or provocative or inappropriate. But to those who oppose the existence of gay people, the idea of welcoming gay youth “as they are” is an indication of an insidious homosexual agenda.

And McDonald’s has made it very clear that such a message will not be part of their US marketing.

Lisa Howards, McDonalds’s director of corporate media relations, told Media Matters that the “Come as You Are” campaign was made exclusively for France.

“The ad you’re referencing is one of a series of ads called “Come as You Are,” which recognized he diversity of McDonald’s customers in France. This particular commercial was produced by McDonald’s France and is running only in France,” Howards said in the statement. “Each of our 117 markets around the world determines their own advertising and marketing.”

Companies like McDonald’s have complicated multi-year advertising strategies that include corporate image, message, and theme and I certainly have no expectation that McDonald’s target-market specifically to the gay community. But there is a difference between less narrow marketing and a strategy that specifically excludes gay customers.

And now Don Thompson, McDonald’s new President and Chief Operating Officer, has made it very clear in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that this ad was a “mistake” and that McDonald’s will not market to gay customers. His religion doesn’t approve of gay people.

Tribune: A French TV ad featuring a gay teen and his father has stirred some controversy — not there, but here. Can you talk about that?

Thompson: It is an example that markets, cultures are very different around the world. (For instance), I’ve never shied away from the fact that I’m a Christian. I have my own personal beliefs and I don’t impose those on anybody else. I’ve been in countries where the majority of the people in the country don’t believe in a deity or they may be atheist. Or the majority of the country is Muslim. Or it may be the majority is much younger skewed. So when you look at all these differences, it’s not that I’m to be the judge or the jury relative to right or wrong. Having said that, at McDonald’s, there are core values we stand for and the world is getting much closer. So we have a lot of conversations. We’re going to make some mistakes at times. (We talk) about things that may have an implication in one part of the world and may be the cultural norm in another part of the world. And those are things that, yes, we’re going to learn from. But, you’re right, that commercial won’t show in the United States.

Tribune: How has it done in France?

Thompson: Interestingly enough, there have been no negatives coming out of France. The brand is a local brand and different things will occur in different parts of the world. We just have to make sure that we understand the impact one action may make on another part of the world.

So I guess McDonald’s “core values” do not include marketing to gay youth. Others should come as they are, but there won’t be any marketing to gay people in the United States. In fact, he seems to be saying that there will not be any more marketing to gay people anywhere from now on. It might “have an implication.”

When AFA came calling, Don Thompson was President of McDonald’s USA and there were “things he learned”. I fear that what he learned was that he now has an excuse for implementing his own bigotries and biases. He’s not “imposing on anyone,” he’s just upholding “core values.”

But perhaps McDonald’s has more to learn. Perhaps they need to discover that America’s youth do not share “core values” with the AFA or with Don Thompson.

And McDonald’s certainly doesn’t share “core values” with me.


June 15th, 2010

Last night, I went to a rally for the Ali Forney Center, which is a shelter for LGBT homeless youth. It had been vandalized. The reason most of these kids are homeless is because their parents or grandparents or foster/adoptive parents believed that the kids’ sexual orientation and/or gender identity violated their “core values.” Throwing the kid away outright or making the kid so miserable that s/he felt no choice but to rabbit, of course, was absolutely copacetic with these “core values.” And, of course, there are organizations like the AFA that will work hard to make these kids miserable.

So McDonald’s in France is accepting of LGBT youth, enough at least to tell them they value their money. But in the USA, McDonald’s President wants to be yet another voice that tells these kids they are unloved and unwanted–because, you know, that’s what his Christian values are all about. The juxtaposition of last night’s rally and reading this today makes me angry almost beyond words.

I think it’s boycott time. I hate the idea of whipsawing companies between competing advocacy groups, and I don’t want our community to act like the AFA. I would understand if the company found the ad concept a bit too controversial for the USA, and if Thompson’s comments had ended there, I’d see no issue. But I’m tired of people trotting out their “values” as an excuse to marginalize LGBT people, especially our kids.

Lindoro Almaviva

June 15th, 2010

So it is OK in France because people are open, but let’s keep the gay folk in the back of the bus here in the USA, where they belong, right?

I wonder how much he would have like those comments made here in the USA while Apartheid was in full swing in South Africa.


June 15th, 2010

What’s the best, most effective way to get contact info for this guy and anyone else along the P.R. food chain to write an email expressing displeasure?

I actually like McD’s okay as far as fast food goes, and there’s a 24-hour drive-thru down the road I go to quite frequently when working into the wee hours of the morning. If I’m going to boycott someone I’d like them to know why … and definitely get that message to the higher-ups, not the poor schlubs working the fry machine at 2am.


June 15th, 2010

Apparently McDonalds in France doesn’t shy away from being supportive of gay youths. And Thomspon doesn’t shy away from being a Christian. But somehow one of these is acceptable and the other is not.

I hate the coded language he uses in his answer.

“I’m a Christian.”= I think homosexuality is morally wrong.

“There are core values…”= As a global corporation we won’t market to gays directly again.

“We made mistakes…”= Those damn French should have run their ad by corporate headquarters…

“We understand the impact one action may make on another part of the world”= and we sure as hell won’t let this happen again.

“Interestingly enough, there have been no negatives coming out of France.”= Countries where gayness isn’t a big issue? Weird!


June 15th, 2010

And for that, I’m not going to McDonald’s any time soon.

And I suggest others to do the same as protest.


June 15th, 2010

For what it’s worth, I haven’t set foot in a McDonalds since Joan Kroc left $1.5 billion (that’s a B) to the Salvation Army. Believe me, it’s not hard to go elsewhere.


June 15th, 2010

Really, I think this fool’s remark is the least of it. They market disgusting meat products that reek of the agony of the lives of the animals slaughtered to provide the patties. Horrible, horrible. Though I am vegetarian I can see that others might want to eat meat and don’t get all holy about it. But not this kind of meat. Everything they sell is garbage.

Emily K

June 15th, 2010

I loathed mcd’s years before THIS happened. Animal cruelty and public health reasons ALONE are enough to make me want to stay away.

So even if they were supportive of gays, I’d still avoid them whenever possible. And like Soren said, it really is not difficult to go somewhere else.

Mark F.

June 15th, 2010

I have to admit to getting one of those $3 value meals with Chicken Mc Nuggets once in a while.

Just a question: How many corporations openly market to gays? Some, but not most.


June 15th, 2010

Wait a minute, does he or does he not impose his religious beliefs on others? His religious beliefs are against homosexuality but since he’s not imposing those on others, he’s going to make sure we don’t have commercials with gay people in them? Or did he mean to say he *is* imposing his views on others?

Paul in Canada

June 16th, 2010

Quite simply, McDonalds USA has greatly misunderstood it’s market. Not surprising when the President/COO is openly declaring that his religion drives his decisions. Time for the owners of shares in McDonalds voice their concerns and oost this baphoon!


June 16th, 2010

McDonalds doesn’t want to market their happy heart attack meals to a gay audience? Good riddance. I don’t eat there and I’d suggest anyone who wants to live beyond 50 not eat there either. Enjoy your Big Mac, Mr. Thompson. Have one on me.

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