This past summer, a French commercial for the popular fast food chain McDonalds made waves in the United States. The advertisement shows a young man on the phone with his boyfriend while his father orders food at the popular restaurant. The young man ends his phone conversation as his father arrives at the table with the food. As he sits, the father begins explaining how when he was his son’s age he got “toutes les femmes” and that his son would if his school wasn’t an all-boys school. The son then just looks at the camera and delivers a cheeky smile as the screen fades to black and delivers the line “venez comme vous êtes,” (“come as you are” in English).
The ad made its way from French television and movie screens to America via more than 2 million hits on youtube.com. The commercial has received both positive and negative feedback stateside. Conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly, for example, declared that an Al-Qaeda ad might as well be featured as part of the “Come as you are” campaign by the company. Meanwhile, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation suggested that the ad be recreated for the American market. McDonalds COO, Don Thompson, declared in this interview that the ad was a mistake and would not be remade in the United States, stating, “There are core values that [McDonalds] stands for.”
The French seem to have perceived the commercial much differently than it has been in the United States. Nathalie Legarlantezec, McDonald’s brand director in France explains that the commercial is not targeted at gays but rather, “McDonald’s clientele in France is the country’s entire population; we don’t have to target anyone specific.” This advertisement is then not just suggesting that this young gay man and his father are welcome at their restaurants as they are, but it is also suggesting that their polar opposites are similarly welcome at their restaurants as they are. This statement undoubtedly draws up a few questions. Is this commercial really population inclusive and not targeting the gay community specifically as the brand director claims? And is America ready for this type of population inclusive advertising?
On thing is for sure, even when America is ready for advertising similar to this McDonald’s commercial, it likely won’t be able to handle something like this risqué Orangina commercial featuring a studly feline which was even deemed too scandalous for France.