McDonald’s just dropped an ad in Sweden that’s worth a second look. The tv spot makes a peculiar pitch to potential Big Mac consumers: Come to McDonald’s because our customers aren’t rude to children. The ad shows a father of two lugging his unruly kids all over town, much to the chagrin of literally everyone (mostly hipster types). The family goes to church, not exactly a great place for your kids to make a scene, and people jeer. They ride on an airplane and people are upset. They go to a restaurant and people leave. They go to McDonald’s and, I’ll be damned, everything is great. Fredlig as they say in Swedish.
The ad does highlight a handful of ways that parenting in Sweden is different. For starters, in Sweden there are dads taking their kids everywhere, a cultural brightspot facilitated by paternity leave. There are also changing tables are in every men’s bathroom, which makes everything a lot more convenient. But with equal opportunity parenting comes equal opportunity stress. Dads are looking for a place to eat where people won’t be bothered by their children, who are apparently grotesquely annoying.
The ad is interesting not only because the pitch is odd but because the timing is suspicious. According to a study by The NPD group, “Families with children made one billion fewer visits to U.S. restaurants over the past six years compared to 306 million fewer visits by adult-only parties.” One of the ways McDonald’s has tried to combat this is by offering healthier food items, especially for kids. Still, the idea of McDonald’s as a family restaurant is, in America, increasingly hard to buy.
That doesn’t, however, mean that the fast food giant won’t try to sell it.