A McCafe video from Taiwan shows a father and son sitting down for coffee. The son writes a message on his paper cup: "I like boys." There's a moment of silence and suspense. What happens next has melted hearts. The older man amends the note to read, "I accept that you like boys."
The ad from Leo Burnett Taiwan is a bold statement of inclusion from a major marketer in Asia. Though most reaction online has been positive, it's reportedly getting some pushback from local religious groups. The video got 1.1 million views on YouTube and 3.5 million on Facebook since it was posted this weekend.
In 2010, McDonald's and BETC Euro RSCG generated similar buzz with a French ad about a father and his gay son. (The 2010 spot also was targeted with nasty commentary about its message of inclusion for everyone: Fox News' Bill O'Reilly asked if there was a McDonald's ad targeted to Al-Qaida.) The Taiwanese ad is the third of six spots around the theme of communication.
McDonald's Taiwan said the creative concept is about "how people have 'tough moments' in life when feelings are beyond words, and how dialogue can be encouraged over a cup of coffee." The cartoon dialogue bubble on the paper cup's design fits the same message.
"We're trying to urge people to start a conversation, to understand more and love more," said Murphy Chou, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett Taiwan. Another goal was to build awareness of McCafe and encourage people to see coffee as more than something to wake them up, he said.
The agency was prepared for some criticism and talked to McDonald's about it. "The client said, 'that's OK, because we are urging people to have a dialogue,'" Mr. Chou said.
There has been a push for LGBT rights in Taiwan, and a poll last year sponsored by the justice ministry found that 71% of respondents favored legalizing same-sex marriage.
Marketing with LGBT themes is gaining ground in Asia, though it's still relatively uncommon. Chinese internet giant Alibaba was among the sponsors last year of a contest to send seven LGBT Chinese couples to West Hollywood to marry. Gay outreach may be more sensitive for marketers on the mainland now because of a recent move from China's regulators to censor gay-themed web series.