As protesters take to the streets in cities across the United States, spurred by the death of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd beneath the knee of a police officer, brands have shown a new level of willingness to voice their opposition to police brutality.
Today, one of the world’s largest brands, McDonald’s, has 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: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Ahmaud Arbery and Floyd.
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.
“They were all one of us,” the McDonald’s ad reads. “We see them in our customers. We see them in our crew members. We see them in our franchisees. And this is why the entire McDonald’s family grieves.
“It’s why we stand for them and any other victims of systematic oppression and violence,” the ad continued. “Today we stand with black communities across America. Which is why we’re donating to the National Urban League and the NAACP. We do not tolerate inequity, injustice or racism.”
At the conclusion of the video, the background color shifts from the yellow hue 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 today, and will be donating $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.
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