April 9, 2012

McDonald’s Australia grills itself, comes out smelling … OK

Posted by: in North America

There’s a lot being written about the trend toward brands offering up warts-and-all glimpses behind the scenes or bleeding heart Twitter mea culpas. In Australia, McDonald’s has taken this to a new realm: A long-form piece of branded content titled McDonald’s Gets Grilled, which aired on Channel Seven, aimed to address concerns that its fast food is produced through horrific industrial methods (think the recent pink slime scare). Produced by an independent company that says it insisted on editorial control, the show follows six everyday Australians touring McDonald’s operations (from farm to factory to retail), sometimes asking challenging questions.

The show’s senior producer says McDonald’s execs “squirmed quite a lot” upon seeing the program, and on the face of it, McDonald’s appears to have been quite open with their methods and presented potentially unsettling practices along with their more reassuring and familiar methods. Some viewers were unswayed (judging by a few reader comments), and various observers dismissed the objectivity on view. Nonetheless, the program actually won its time slot nationally, perhaps pointing to the demand for fuller disclosure, or at least a desire to see brands “unwrap the process,” one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2012.

As a follow-up, McDonald’s in Australia says it will launch two programs later this year that further unwrap the process. Members of the public will have a chance to become “Quality Scouts” and, like the documentary participants, gain access to the supply chain and restaurants. And an Open Doors Program will let anyone take a tour behind the scenes at a restaurant or even a supplier facility. The company also set up a FAQ page to answer questions about the show, from how it was made and funded to specific issues raised by the program (why sugar is added to french fries, why phosphates are added to chicken, etc.).

Image credit: mumbrella.com.au

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