The ad shows a man who has died and his wife grieving. Her husband is also clutching a half-eaten burger. The message is from the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, or PCRM. Its membership consists of 9,000 physicians from across the country.
The ad appeared on local Washington TV stations Thursday morning and will run on cable TV's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" Thursday night. The ad also has been posted on YouTube where it has logged about 500,000 hits. It was made at a cost of $20,000.
"McDonald's menu is full of fat, full of cholesterol, full of sodium, and those kinds of food choices increase your risk of heart disease and stroke and other health problems," says PCRM spokesman Patrick Sullivan.
Sullivan says PCRM doesn't have a large budget, but hopes to run the ad soon in selected cities with a high percentage of fast food consumption. He specifically mentioned Chicago (McDonald's corporate headquarters are in a Chicago suburb), Miami, and Los Angeles. It is likely to get considerable exposure online. PCRM says Washington was selected because it claims about 1,500 residents there died yearly from heart disease.
At the end, the golden arches appear, making it clear who's being criticized.
McDonald's issued this reaction: "This commercial is outrageous, misleading and unfair to all consumers. McDonald's trusts our customers to put such outlandish propaganda in perspective, and to make food and lifestyle choices that are right for them."
ABC showed the ad to consumers and they had mixed reactions whether it's effective.
When asked if he thought the ad conveyed a lot, San Jose resident Shane Hagerty said, "I didn't think so, really. I've seen things on the Internet that were more convincing and had more facts that would dissuade me more than that."
ABC7 spoke to Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., via Skype. She is a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University.
"The average consumer today learns best with images and visuals, and that's what this spot is all about," said Yarrow.
Buford Barr disagrees. He teaches advertising and communications at Santa Clara University.
"I think people are going to go ahead and enjoy McDonald's as they always have because they haven't made a real case yet. It's a totally emotional one. It's a shock value one, and I don't think it's going to be very effective," said Barr.
While the ad ends with the suggestion to eat vegetarian, PCRM says they would be very happy if Americans would eat fewer fast food meals.