Is this new ad from McDonald’s in bad taste? It might be, if it had aired in America that is. A new spot for McDonald’s airing in Sweden compares employees of the fast food giant to soldiers, comparing their uniforms and camaraderie to that of members of an army who went through training or spent time in foxholes together. The commercial comes shortly after Sweden announced they would be reinstating the draft for the first year time since 2010 and would choose 4,000 people for mandatory enlistment. The commercial’s voiceover states:
“In uniform, we are all equal. Gender, ethnic background or sexual orientation is irrelevant. Nobody cares which god you pray to, or if you don’t pray at all. All we demand is that you’re a problem solver and focused on the goal… “Self-discipline, team spirit and cooperation has been shown to be the recipe for diversity, integration and really, really good hamburgers.”
Comparing fast food workers, most of them young men and women, to those who go off and fight for their country and potentially die for it as well probably wouldn’t go over well in the United States. It could be considered an uncomfortable (if inadvertent) commentary about how certain young people from certain backgrounds turn to the fast food industry or the army as a last resort when things get difficult and are not treated well when making that choice.
But in Sweden, it plays a bit differently. Which is good because there have been enough bad commercials in the US lately that McDonald’s would have been purposely ignoring recent lessons when choosing to put this one into circulation. In Sweden, McDonald’s employs nearly 12,000 people — many of them youths — across the country and the company has some supporting evidence from a recent report to back up claims that kids can achieve the same positive characteristics from a fast food job as they can from enlisting. The company says it has “taught hundreds of thousands of young Swedes the importance of self-discipline, team spirit, and cooperation” which can be compared to what they would learn with a role in the armed forces.
To put a button on it, McDonald’s even used a similar questionnaire as the Swedish army with its own employees and the results showed that 62 percent of employees thought they learned how to be a leader from the company, while only 49 percent of people in the army said the same thing. Maybe McDonald’s is right in this situation after all.