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'McDonald's death ad' airs tonight in D.C. (Video)

(Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

Tonight's "Daily Show" probably will have a pretty big audience thanks to Bill Clinton dropping by for a chat with host Jon Stewart. But some doctors will be watching for a different reason: the commercials.

During tonight's show, a commercial called the "McDonald's death ad" will run in the D.C. area. And it has stirred up controversy before it has even aired.

The 30-second spot, produced by the nonprofit group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, features an off-tune McDonald's theme song playing while a weeping women stands above a dead man. As the camera pans away, the golden McDonald's arches are drawn over the man's feet.

The tagline appears: "I was lovin' it" -- a riff on McDonald's "I'm lovin' it" ad campaign.

Susan Levin, the director of nutrition education at PCRM, says the group hopes the ad educates people on the dangers of eating fast food.

In case the ad's viewers missed the connection, the corpse is covered by a sheet, but his hand still grips a half-eaten hamburger.

Steve Siebold, the author of "Die Fat or Get Tough," said the advertisement shoulders McDonald's with the responsibility for obesity but people should be blamed for lacking control. "We're eating ourselves to death," he says. "Every eighth-grader knows McDonald's is not good for you."

Levin, a registered dietitian, said that may not be true. "McDonald's would say, 'We have a healthy menu.' They spend billions of dollars to convince us that's true. I think it's naive to assume that everyone thinks that eating at McDonald's is wrong for you."

She hopes the ad makes a small dent in what she sees as misleading advertising from McDonald's. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine advocates for a meat-free diet. The commercial ends with the words, "Tonight, Make It Vegetarian."

The ad will roll out in Washington first Levin said, as it has high concentration of fast-food restaurants and about 1,500 area residents who die annually from heart disease. The commercial will be shown in other U.S. cities in the next few days.

Bridget Coffing, vice president of McDonald's Global Communications, responded to the advertisement with an e-mailed statement: "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."

By Melissa Bell  | September 16, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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McDonald's doesn't force people to overeat.

Posted by: googleguy | September 16, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse


These brave souls are going to take on McDEATH Incorporated!!!!

They are going to need some legal help - McDonalds fights REALLY DIRTY!

In England, they sued a couple of poor souls for libel when the two handed out circulars criticizing McDonalds food.

There's actually a book about it - "McLibel."

The trial took over a year, and cost McDonalds over $10 Million in legal fees.

AND MCDONALDS LOST!!!! On MOST of the counts, the court found the allegedly libelous statements about McDonalds were TRUE!

I am sure there will be a follow up story here. Get the legal defense fund going, NOW!

Posted by: trenda | September 16, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Five Guys pwns Mickey D.

Posted by: bs2004 | September 16, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of the message, it's a bad commercial. Surprised they're able to use the Golden Arches, too...

By the way, I eat at Mickey D's more than any other place, probably, and I'm 6'1", 160#. I think people are smart enough to make their own decisions on what they can eat. I just think healthier food should be cheaper, because it's the cost of fast food that makes it so enticing. (That, and Big Macs are pretty yummy.)

Posted by: Elnok | September 16, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

I love this commercial. I hope it makes people think twice before heading to McDonald's or any fast food place for that matter. It's great to see an ad that counters all the gross fast food ads out there.

Posted by: allisonjc | September 16, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

At least this advocacy group is trying to shape opinion the right way with public awareness instead of using the government or the courts to try to force their point of view on everyone.

The ending of "Make it vegetarian" reminds me of a (really conservative) friend of mine who described vegetarian/vegans with a line from Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street: They love animals, they can't stand people.

Posted by: bbface21 | September 16, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

The commercial goes too far because it doesn't tell you at what moderate volume (e.g. 1 BigMac per week)McDonald's becomes unhealthy. There are lots of "bad" things we can enjoy in moderation.

This commercial doesn't educate; it scares and then lectures. I think public service announcements and government should educate people in an unbiased manner so people can make their own informed choices.

Posted by: thinkingoutloud2 | September 16, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

A little bit of awareness is probably a good thing.

thinkingoutloud2, the commercial directs you to their website which has lots of info, by the way.

My cousin had tremendous success & weight loss with their Reversing Diabetes book. I am a fan of the PCRM. Hope they don't get sued for using those arches.

Posted by: sarahabc | September 16, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

its a life choice, there are things far more bad for you; handguns, alcohol, driving too fast, riding without a helmet..

Posted by: tomdc99 | September 16, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

As long as these busybodies don't want to get the force of law behind their notions of what's good for me, I suppose they can spout whatever nonsense they want.

If they do show the slightest interest in using the police power to restrict my choices, they can shove it. And then some.

Posted by: asdf2 | September 16, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

It's true that people are free to eat fast food or not. However, what most people outside of perhaps those in the advertising business don't know is the vast amount of research and testing goes into things like ads, logo designs and colors. People are targeted by corporations armed with millions in market and human psychological research and induced to the greatest extent possible. It's just good efficient, effective business policies, if you don't have a soul. So don't just dump things on people.

Posted by: chrisdunning1 | September 16, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Finally, a much-needed counterpoint to the multi-billion ad campaigns that have cravenly associated greasy industrial food with "good times."

Posted by: kcx7 | September 16, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

McDonald's do have healthy menu but most of ad targeting kids try to sell not the healthy menu. Its a free country, if McDonalds can spend billions on brain washing then PCRM has equal rights to send their message.

Posted by: optimist_10 | September 16, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Damn, I better switch to Burger King!

Posted by: antispy | September 16, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Just don't go vegetarian at McDonalds! Meat is only part of the problem....tell the audience about the dangers of refined bread, high fructose corn syrup in EVERYTHING. SUGAR is the issue, too! But it's a good start.

Posted by: annie331 | September 16, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

At least he died happy!!!

I going out for a Big Mac!!!!!!!

And a Shake!!!!

I'm Lovin' It!

Posted by: Robster1 | September 16, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Jsuf | September 16, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

mmmmm cheeseburgers mmmmmm

and yes, I do want fries with that...

Posted by: jhorstma | September 16, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

This advert would be fine if all references to McDonald's were removed. To single out McDonald's specifically to represent all the fast food industry is to unfairly burden McDonald's while leaving all the other corporations off the hook, let alone all the other non chain restaurants that offer "unhealthy" food. Several food experts have said that a standard McDonald's hamburger is just fine, it is the loaded burgers, like the Big Mac that are the issue. While I recognize and support the advocacy for better balanced food choices, I hope McDonald's sues the makers of this advert for libel and trade mark infringement. This advert is just as bad as Rush Limbaugh and FOX News wild accusations that have no place in rational public discourse.

Posted by: HarryR | September 16, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Just like the smoking ads. It goes to show that what you do to others will be done to you.

If you don't like this ad, if you don't like the message to be pushed to you in this form, tough. You told the 'health' freaks that these ads work because you celebrated them for smokers.

Get used now to be the new outcast: the fat, the fast food eater. Join the smokers, you fools.

Posted by: coqui44 | September 16, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I think it is unfair to single out McDonald's. Portion sizes are out of control everywhere, including those quaint "mom and pop" restaurants.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 16, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Good lord. I'm sure PCRM checked with its lawyers before making this ad and placing it. They ain't stupid. And if McDonald's dares to sue, I bet PCRM would be lovin' the opportunity to make its case in a courtroom that eating two all beef patties contributes to heart disease. And McDonald's is still the largest fast food restaurant in the land, so why not make an example out of them? Britain is extremely protective of sullying the reputation of the wealthy, which makes it easier for deep-pocketed companies to sue and win for libel there. While still a corporate-run state like its mother country, the Land of the Free at least makes it a little more difficult to sue and win a libel suit.

Posted by: HonestBroker1 | September 16, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Eating more fruits and veggies will make you feel better. They provide real nutrition, with complex organic molecules that your body really likes.

I don't advocate a full-on vegetarian diet, but having a diet that is mostly fruit & veggie based is pretty good stuff. What McDonalds doesn't want you to know is how much better all that stuff tastes than the crap they serve.

Posted by: Nymous | September 16, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

super size mine

Posted by: djrhood | September 16, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

McDonalds needs to sue these people for defamation or something. It's time to start standing up to Liberal Fascists.

Posted by: FormerDemocrat | September 16, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

go run around the damn block a few times

Posted by: comus3 | September 16, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

what i love is how mcdonald's advertises that they use 100% USDA beef and their eggs are individually inspected for quality.
They neglect to mention what grade USDA beef they use, or that it would be illegal for them to serve beef and eggs which do not have the attributes they advertise as quality-enhancing.

'Here at McDonald's, we use beef from only authorised sources.'
Forgive me if that doesn't sound too appetising

Posted by: j762 | September 16, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse

I thought this was supposed to be an anti-McDonalds ad not a pro vegetarian ad. Two different things don't you think?

Posted by: ChristyS1 | September 16, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

I like the number two meal with a diet coke. Sometimes I get two apple pie too. Its awesome

Posted by: bschaper | September 16, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me, or is anyone else repulsed by the smell of McD's.

Posted by: vmax02rider | September 16, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Weak message, foolish presentation, cheap shots, repulsive voice-over.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 16, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

McDonald's food IS yummy. That's what make it insidious. Yummy isn't equivalent to health-enhancing. Business is about extracting money from customers. If customers want to kill themselves slowly with a legal product, investors don't mind. If you want to make a mint, invent a McDonald's meal with negative calories and no artery-clogging elements. The more you eat -- the more weight you lose.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | September 16, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

"Liberal fascist"? Interesting concept. As opposed to a "not-so-generous fascist"?

Is PCRM advocating for the arrest and imprisonment of people who eat McDonald's food? Don't think so. Is PCRM advocating for the arrest and imprisonment of senior executives and shareholders of McDonald's? Nope.

Are the "fascistic fascists" in the USA advocating for the arrest and imprisonment of people who demonstrate in favor of animal rights? Yep. Are animal rights activists being imprisoned for simply voicing concern for the treatment of nonhuman animals? Yes, indeed.

How many people have been arrested and imprisoned for choosing to eat at McDonald's? Right. Stupid question.

So, who are the real fascists?

Posted by: HonestBroker1 | September 16, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

First cigarettes, and now McDonalds. I applaud this group for the AD campaign. Just imaging if there had never been a MaDonalds, and cigarettes, we would be alot healthier today. I know some idiot will say " hey but McDonalds is cheap and it feeds people of low income". I say bull its called supply and damand. If people ate better and made better decisions on food and stopped eat crap, you think McDonalds would stop selling crap and have a truly healthy menu? You bet your ass.

I hope all the big fast-food places just go away.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | September 16, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I am very distressed, and offended, by this ad.

I'm all for truth in advertising, and I fully support responsible groups sending the message, in a reasonable manner, that doing and eating different things will have different health consequences. But the visual image of a (relatively) young, and not obese, man, lying dead with the "smoking gun" hamburger in his hand, grossly oversimplifies the issue.

This commercial appears to be saying that the man deserved what he got - in essence, caused his own death - by eating a hamburger. And that troubles me greatly. Perhaps it's because it hits too close to home for me. My father died (in the early 1960s, thus before recent advances in cardiovascular medicine) at age 37, of a heart attack. He was otherwise very healthy, his weight and BMI were OK, and he never ate a McDonald's hamburger (or its equivalent) in his life.

Life isn't always fair. Stuff happens.

Posted by: nan_lynn | September 16, 2010 11:21 PM | Report abuse

It shows no better example. It shows no love. It shows no happiness. It isn't in any way a desirable outcome that reinforces good eating choices.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 16, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes. And if I just eat celery I won't die?

I thought so.

Posted by: powellsanmiguel | September 16, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

definetely,it is very true that major brands always give out free samples on health products check out tell your friends also

Posted by: tomhanks17 | September 17, 2010 3:18 AM | Report abuse

Many opinions on this ad, and I see your points in most cases. Mine is from the point of view of the actor playing the dead guy. Thing is, I didn't know what the job was, just $200 to play a dead body for a day. Struggling actor. A guy. A job. Sure, my body type and age were right for what they needed, but as I laid there for 8 hrs, I realized that I WAS that guy. Whether you end up seeing these images or not, my body at one point was covered with fast food containers and cold french fries. Feet taped together for juuuuust the right angle to have the Arches superimposed. Ironically, treated like a side of beef. Consider: It was MEANT to be incendiary. Remember elementary school? "Meet me by the backstop after school" and the whispers of "fight...backstop...3 o'clock"?? You think the PCRM doesn't WANT a public fight? That they used the Arches thinking they WOULDN'T be sued? That they don't already have a cadre of pro bono vegelawyers with mountains of evidence? McDonald's has lost this fight before, and PCRM knows it. McDonald's: "Eat lots of our food and have fun!" PCRM: "Don't do that. Avoid fast food and meat, eat healthy (veggie), live longer. Oh, and btw, Mickey D's? Bring it." Yes, there are many others out there promoting the fast food nation without remorse, but PCRM decided to load for bear. So, judge as you will.
All I know is, if the ad was shot today, I wouldn't get the job. Because I played the dead guy? No, because I know how to eat healthy and I want to die slower. Oh, and I enjoy cooking. Was the experience just one more, ironically "real", wake-up call that I had a unique way of relating to because of what I do? Yes. From "being" dead, not from watching the ad.
Healthier, mostly meatless eating habits, fast food = trail mix and fruit, and 30 lbs later, I'm Lovin' It.

Posted by: johncbailey | September 18, 2010 1:19 AM | Report abuse

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