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McDonald's Pulls Offensive Ad in Boston, Apologizes

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Photo: Facebook / Jed Hresko via
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

A McDonald's ad that looks like a public service ad for mental health services has been pulled from Boston public transportation this week. Boston Business Journal reports the the ad first caught the attention of law professor David Yamada, who posted a harsh critique of the ad on his New Workplace Institute blog. Several Boston publications then picked up the story.

The ad, pictured above, shows a woman with her head in her hands, clearly in distress. It tells fellow Big Mac lovers "You Are Not Alone," and has an 800 number for them to call. Yamada called the number, and it led him to McDonald's corporate offices. The ad offended Yamada for its total lack of sensitivity. He wrote the ads represent a "new low" for McDonald's in the way it "mak[es] fun of public service ads for people who may need mental health counseling."

In a statement to Time, McDonald's denies ever approving the ad, and blames a marketing process error. From their statement: "We can confirm this ad was not approved by McDonald's. We have an approval process in place ... Regrettably, in this incident, that process was not followed. We sincerely apologize for this error." Arnold Worldwide, the Boston advertising agency that created the ad, has also apologized and said the release was an "unintended error." Oops. See more of the ads at Boston mag.

· McDonald's Big Mac ad hits a new low [TNW via Eater Boston]
· Arnold apologizes for McDonald's mental illness ads on MBTA [BJB]
· All McDonald's Coverage on Eater [-E-]