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326. Ronald McDonald is a Hostage.

Let me get this out of the way right off the bat. I like the enthusiasm and energy and maybe even the vague concept behind this work from Finland's Food Liberation Army, or FLA. Basically, they are holding Ronald McDonald hostage until McDonald's comes clean about their processing and ingredients. It's all fun and games up to that point. But what's not 'cool' as it were, is the use of a style taken directly from terrorism execution videos and the promise of executing Ronald by next Friday (February 11, 2011 at 6:30PM EET) if they do not receive their information ransom. Sure, it's meant in jest - but can we not leave some things for the real world? Like terrorist execution videos? Is that too much to ask?

One more irritating tidbit is the group's psuedo-arabic flag. Maybe because I spent some time in the middle east I've gone all soft, but the allusion of mimicking Arabic script smacks of a really hateful stereotype. Yes, I get the joke - it's actually "I'm loving it" upside down. Clever. But it's definitely trying to represent an Islamic extremist group 'vibe' and I guess I have found out where my line is because they've crossed it. No doubt their response would be, "It's just a joke." But they themselves are close enough to a PETA-like extremist non-profit that it just comes off in poor taste. I am no fan of McDonald's, but I'm no fan of this either.

The groups's Flag and upside-down 'joke':

Here's the Hostage Video:

The FLA has also launched a site,, where they have posted eight questions they expect the fast-food giant to answer as well as the video of 'how they kidnapped Ronald.' You can even sign the petition should you agree with their cause.

The Kidnapping Video:

I know this is just a plastic statue. I know it's supposed to be a joke - albeit a joke with a point. But it wasn't that long ago when Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was captured and later beheaded in such a video. There is still a war going on, not to mention a much larger struggle between extremism of all sorts and rational civilization. I wonder how long after WWII it took for people to joke about Japanese internment camps or how long after Vietnam it took to joke about Agent Orange, but this stuff is still going on. It's too soon to me. Or maybe it's just not funny enough to warrant the use of the material?

Of course, McDonald's isn't going to respond to this ("We don't deal with terrorists!"), so by next Friday we'll see how tastefully an organization can hold a 'beheading' party. I would not want to be involved, that's for sure, even if it's beheading an ugly, plastic statue.

Yeah, we need to be aware of - and oftentimes use - current events in our marketing efforts. That's what can help make them timely and relateable. And the smaller, more politically oriented groups are under even more pressure to do something that 'breaks out of the clutter'. But we also must be aware of the temperature in the room, where are peoples' hearts and minds? Maybe in Finland this is funny. Heck, maybe it's funny here in America. But from where I'm sitting, it makes me a little ashamed that I'm in advertising at the moment.

YouTube user, c3bhm, would disagree with me, "THIS is a perfect example of the kinds of super cool - yet´╗┐ 'harmless' - kinds of social protest ('terrorism' - ha) that will actually succeed in having an impact - because it is sweet and fun but also serious and respectable but also dangerous and illegal but also crazy - and the internet community all around the world loves it. Even network news turns to web-content now, because it's the most entertaining and thought provoking stuff. Thanks guys. Keep up the good work."

This work leaves me with a feeling similar to what I feel after I eat a few Chicken McNuggets. At first I think this is going to be all right, I might even say I like it, but then the aftertaste and discomfort are too much to ignore. Anyone else feel the way I do or am I totally taking this too seriously? I usually err on the side of 'anything is fair game' but not this time. Maybe by posting this, I'm trying to figure out why exactly that is.

Ronald McDonald is a hostage. Or is taste the real victim? I look forward to your comments and dialogue.

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Reader Comments (5)

There is nothing funny or creative about this...isn't it enough that we have this stuff going on for real? Something far more clever would be showing how the obesity epidemic is actually because of FAMINE. The food we eat no longer has any nutritional value (Hello, Mickey D's!), so our bodies grow fatter as they starve for real nutrition.
February 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin
We always called this sort of stuff "train wreck advertising." You make somebody stop and look at something, but toward what end? You cross certain boundaries of taste and sensibility and you wind up looking crazier, angrier, less credible (take your pick) than the folks you're out to demonize.
February 4, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpeter
This sort of 'shock media" has lost itself by self-indulging in the effect and not the principle. We tolerated Madonna because "shock rock" was fascinating--then. Howard Stern was an incremental step in the wrong direction of Don Imus. The media is a very strong institution, no matter from what country they originate. So powerful in fact, that they seemed to have out muscled even most governents. It is their job, no their responsibility, to maintain appropriate social and cultural standards, and in my opinion I agree with you, the aftertaste and discomfort is far too much to endure. When I see a presentation or commericial like this, my very first thought is not the originator's message, but rather how credible is their platform and tenets to produce such a thing?
February 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom
The upside-down text is not only mimicking Arabic script. It is arabic.
October 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM.V
It doesn't look like it to me, I only see the upside-down english, what does it say?
October 16, 2012 | Registered Commenterjj

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