Countering negative publicity from ongoing anti-American protests by angry French farmers, McDonald's France is running a tactical newspaper campaign to remind consumers its products are "Made in France."
The farmers have seized on McDonald's as a symbol of American cultural imperialism. They insist their highly publicized actions against the company's restaurants nationwide will have an impact in the widening trans-Atlantic trade war over Europe's refusal to import hormone-fed beef from the U.S.
Until now, McDonald's France has taken a low-key approach to the protest, declining to press charges for vandalism at a new restaurant construction site. But last week it struck back, breaking the "Made in France" campaign in 60 regional daily newspapers across the country.
The self-defense campaign, developed by Euro RSCG, Paris, McDonald's longtime French agency, aims to inform consumers that while its brand may be American, the products served in France's 750 McDonald's outlets are overwhelmingly French in origin.
The page ads underscore the company's policy of buying French products and its role in France's agricultural sector, while thanking customers who have remained loyal.
"Our idea was to go for a big impact with the campaign, to reach out to as many consumers as possible, and that is why we chose the national press format," a McDonald's spokesman said.
"The ads were designed to respond to the very particular context of the ongoing demonstrations," he said.
The farmers' movement was triggered by a World Trade Organization ruling ordering Europe to accept hormone-fed beef produced in the U.S. The French farmers rejected the WTO decision and are equally opposed to retaliatory sanctions the U.S. has slapped onto a host of imported French foods, including roquefort cheese, foie gras, truffles and Dijon mustard.
The farmers' protests, including dumping tons of animal manure and rotting vegetables at McDonald's restaurants, have also garnered untold mass media attention.
COUNTERING WITH POSTERS
McDonald's first sought to counter the protests through a poster campaign at its French restaurants, noting that the burger chain is "a major partner of the French agricultural sector," purchasing 27,000 tons of beef each year from 45,000 French livestock farmers and working with an additional 770 farmers nationwide who supply products ranging from salad ingredients to flour, chicken, eggs and pork products.
The message was expanded in the national newspaper campaign, which points out that the company's 240 French franchise owners employ more than 30,000 workers and create 2,500 jobs each year.
CHANGE IN TACTICS
Perhaps in recognition of the link between McDonald's and the French agricultural sector, protesters changed tactics in recent days. Rather than resorting to further acts of violence, farmers in the southwestern French town of Agen convinced McDonald's to substitute locally produced specialties targeted by the U.S. sanctions for traditional ingredients in the company's Big Mac and cheeseburger menu items.
Thus, McDonald's substituted duck breast and foie gras for beef in the Big Mac, creating what farmers called a "Big Magret au Foie Gras." (Magret is French for duck.) Similarly, McDonald's outlets in the Agen region are serving hamburgers topped with roquefort cheese and Agen plums to form a "Roquefort-burger aux