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TODD SMITH — McDonald’s ad honors victims of police brutality

TODD SMITH

A new, silent 60-second ad from McDonald’s honors Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, saying “they were all one of us.”

“We see them in our customers,” text on the screen reads. “We see them in our crew members. We see them in our franchisees.”

As protesters take to the streets in cities across the United States, spurred by the death of black Minneapolis resident Floyd beneath the knee of a police officer, brands have shown a new level of willingness to voice their opposition to police brutality.

McDonald’s joined the conversation with a bold spot from Wieden + Kennedy New York that directly names and memorializes seven black Americans killed by police or shot to death while unarmed, according to Adweek.

The 60-second spot from Wieden + Kennedy New York begins by listing their names, then includes a message of solidarity with the victims, their loved ones and the protesters demonstrating in their memory.

Martin was killed in 2012 at age 17 by George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch coordinator who fatally shot Martin after reporting him to police as “suspicious.” Brown was killed in 2014 by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., after the officer told Brown to walk on the sidewalk instead of in the street. Two white police officers in Baton Rouge, La., tasered, pinned and fatally shot Sterling in 2016 when they believed he was reaching for a revolver in his pocket.

In 2018, an off-duty police patrol officer in Dallas killed Jean in his home. Jefferson was also killed in her home by a police officer after a neighbor called a non-emergency number to report an open door in 2019. Arbery was shot by white men who confronted him as he was jogging in Glynn County, Ga., earlier this year. And Floyd died after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, pressed his knee on his neck until he asphyxiated.

At the end of the video, the background color shifts from the trademark yellow glow of McDonald’s golden arches to black, with the words “Black lives matter” appearing in white text.

McDonald’s posted the ad on its social platforms and will donate $1 million to the National Urban League and the NAACP.

“Our internal support is no longer enough. Now is the time for our brand to raise our voice and speak up,” read a message from McDonald’s USA CMO Morgan Flatley and Vicki Chancellor, chair of McDonald’s Operator’s National Advertising Committee. “Consumers are watching how brands act in this moment, and our own multicultural communities deserve not only our support, but our action. We must leverage the power and scale of our brand to make meaningful change.”

While McDonald’s is a new participant in discussions of inequality against black Americans, activism in advertising is nothing new for its agency, Wieden + Kennedy. The agency’s Portland office has long created provocative ads on themes of social justice for clients like Nike, including its 2018 campaign starring former San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick and its most recent spot, “Just Don’t Do It,” which was also released in response to Floyd’s death.

Several brands have spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in recent days, as consumers, particularly younger ones, demand more vocal activism from companies on issues such as police brutality.

Skeleton Newsrooms Juggle Pandemic and Protests

Local news publications have been hard hit by financial pressure stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, with many operating newsrooms gutted by layoffs and furloughs. Now, local journalists are juggling coverage of twin crises – COVID-19 and the protests roiling the country – with even fewer resources.

Protestors in cities across the country took to the streets to call for justice over the death of George Floyd, and the deaths of other black Americans.

Reporting on complex and fast-changing events like the current protests typically calls for all hands on deck, but some reporters are simply unable to contribute. The pandemic’s economic impact has led to tens of thousands of layoffs and furloughs in media industry since March, with local newspapers among the hardest hit, according to CNN Business.

“We had people downtown and in all corners of the city. We worked hard to capture what was going on, and I’m proud of the work we did but imagine how much better it could have been if so many of us weren’t on furlough,” Megan Crepeau, a Chicago Tribune reporter and president of the Chicago Tribune Guild, told the news network.

National TV Ad Spending Falls in Midst of Crisis

Millions of Americans forced to shelter at home are tuning in more TV – but advertisers did not during the month of April in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. 

Ad dollars allocated to national TV fell by 26.7% in April of this year to $2.7 billion, according to Standard Media Index, a tracker of ad spending, one of the first tangible estimates of how severely the ongoing pandemic has affected one of the nation’s most popular mediums. SMI says ad revenue for broadcast television fell 33.4% to $907 million in April, while ad revenue for cable TV fell 24.8% to $1.66 billion. Syndicated TV, however, managed to snare new ad dollars, with revenue rising 12.1% to $140.2 million.

SMI estimates that advertisers of travel services cut spending by 94% in April, the most in any category. Retail ad dollars were down by 46%; restaurants cut ad spending by 41%; and entertainment and media companies reduced ad spend by 38%, largely due to a lack of new movie releases to promote. Automotive marketers cut ad spending by 64% and technology advertisers reduced spend by 30%, SMI said.

One of the chief factors in the decline was the loss of sports. SMI estimates advertising committed to TV sports fell 72% in April, with $240 million lost due to the suspension of the NBA’s season; $200 million lost due to the cancellation of the NCAA men’s basketball championship; $40 million due to the NHL’s suspended season; $30 million due to scuttled golf tournaments; and $25 million due to the suspension of Major League Baseball’s current cycle.

SMI uses data from invoices from many media-buying agencies and works with five of the seven major companies involved in the industry, which accounts for 70% of the national TV marketplace.

Advertisers pulled back on scripted comedies and dramas, with SMI estimating ad revenue fell as much as 50% behind some regularly scheduled programs. In April, the most ad dollars were generated by Fox’s “The Masked Singer.”

Madison Avenue, however, stuck by news programming. According to SMI, ad revenue for all news programming on broadcast TV rose 5.5%, with ad spending behind CBS news programs up 20%, ad spending behind ABC news programs up 5% and ad spending behind NBC news programs up 3%. Ad prices for CBS news programs tend to be at the lower end of the spectrum, owing to the lower ratings those shows have compared to their rivals on NBC and ABC.

Ad spending behind cable-news networks was off 1.6%, according to SMI. Marketers seemed interested in Fox News’ weekday primetime schedule, according to SMI, with ad spend behind those programs up 65% compared to the year-earlier period.

» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.

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