Monday, February 23, 2009

McDonalds & Shark Conservation: advertising that misses the mark

My friend and long time advocate for shark conservation, Melanie Marks CEO of Shark Trust Wines, is taking on McDonalds regarding a radio commercial that apparently perpetuates the myths and misconceptions regarding great white sharks. Here was her initial salvo aimed at the McDonalds corporate headquarters:

"I recently heard a radio commercial for McDonald's that referenced the great white shark. More specifically, it promoted McDonald's at the expense of the great white. Sickened would not begin to describe how I felt about McDonald's when I heard this commercial.

The great white shark is on the endangered species list. It's population has declined by roughly 80% in the last 15 years and is expected to become extinct within the next several decades unless something is done to reverse this trend. In light of that, how can McDonald's approve an ad that contributes to the negative, and incorrect, image of this animal. Clearly, someone did not do their homework! A great leader once said, if you are not part of the solution than you are part of the problem.

I request that you immediately remove these extremely ignorant and inflammatory commercials from the air. I am prepared to organize a boycott of McDonald's if you do not do so immediately. And, to give you a sense of the power behind this statement, 30 million viewers tuned into Discovery Channel's Shark Week last year because they are interested in the fate of the shark.

I am an active voice in the ocean conservation community and I am not opposed to using that voice to send a message to McDonald's that your advertising campaign is malicious and contributing to the extinction of one of the great ocean animals.

I request that you respond to my request within 5 business days, or I will have no choice but to begin a PR campaign against McDonald's for your slander of an endangered animal."

Melanie Marks
Shark Trust Wines

RTSea Note: As a followup, Melanie has said she has received word from McDonalds requesting a few days to look into the matter, suggesting it might be a regional ad coming from a local agency. The ad apparently refers to great whites sharks as "killing machines" and promotes the Big Mac as able to take on the great white. Melanie is very well connected within the shark conservation community and can rally the troops if need be.

If we are to change the underlying mindset of people regarding sharks then we must address the perpetuation of false stereotypes and misconceptions, no matter whether used in earnest or jest. Let's hope McDonalds does not choose to blithely dismiss Melanie's concerns.

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