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Offensive Fast-food Ad Pulled

Shanghai Television Station has stopped running a controversial commercial for McDonald's, that has already been pulled off the air in Xi'an and Chengdu after consumers in those cities made it clear they weren't lovin' it.


The ad shows a man on his knees begging for a discount - a culturally sensitive position in China.


Advertisement managers at STV said yesterday they removed the ad on Tuesday at the request of Optimum Media Direction, McDonald's advertisement agency.


When a Shanghai Daily reporter called OMD yesterday, an employee surnamed She hung up as soon as the reporter identified herself.


McDonald's (China) Co Ltd did extend its regrets for any possible misunderstanding the ad caused among consumers in a written statement sent to Shanghai Daily on Tuesday.


"We meant to inform consumers that McDonald's would offer delicious food to our customers all year round by adopting humorous and attractive techniques," the statement said.


Many people in Xi'an, Chengdu and Shanghai found the ad neither humorous nor attractive.


At the end of a 30-second TV ad promoting the fast-food chains' discounted prices, a middle-aged Chinese man gets down on his knees to beg for a discount from a video storeowner.


A voice-over states that McDonald's understands people are sad when they miss a good opportunity, so the company is offering discounts 365 days a year.


Though the shot of customer on his knees lasts for less than five seconds, it has triggered strong opposition from consumers.


"It is an insult to consumers," said Yuan Genbao, a local resident. "The shot makes us feel as if McDonald's is giving alms to customers by offering discounted products, just like showing mercy to beggars."


Jiang Zhibin, dean of the advertising department at Shanghai International Studies University, said the ad was inappropriate as it ignores traditional Chinese culture and thinking.


"Getting down on one's knees is always considered a humiliation and something of indignity for most Chinese," Jiang said. "People will wonder if there is any implication of unfairness between the company and consumers with the shot."


Though the country's advertising law didn't set clear rules about such ads, the commercial shows disrespect for the country's cultural traditions, he added.


Owing to the social pressure, McDonald's in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, withdrew the ad on Monday.


(eastday.com June 23, 2005)

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