Canada’s Museums Roar Back

By Hillary Rya, Western Museum Association

On Tuesday, January 16, museum director Tracy Calogheros was listening to the radio as she drove home from work, when suddenly she had to pull over because of what she was hearing from her car radio. The McDonald’s radio advertisement, which had been running since at least Monday, promoted the burger chain’s $5 menu as a better value than a visit to a museum.

The radio spot went like this:

"You could get a museum tour for $5," says the male narrator. A woman playing the role of a museum guide then cuts in. "There were dinosaurs and then there weren't," she says. "OK, then, exit through the gift shop!"

The narrator then returns to inform listeners that, alternatively, they could spend their $5 (plus tax) on a value meal with a sandwich, fries and drink, "at participating restaurants."

Calogheros, CEO of Prince George’s Exploration Place Museum, was incensed. “Not only was I offended personally, but I felt like this attacked the whole museum community.” To Calogheros it seemed like McDonald’s was choosing to use museums as a target but at other times, the company was more than happy to use museums to sell producst such as the recent Jurassic Park movie tie-in.

The British Columbia museum community was a buzz about what to do. Ben Fast of the B.C. Museum Association (BCMA) said he was contacted by multiple members of the Museum Association upset by the 15-second piece.

"They're disappointed that McDonald's would kind of take a shot at the cultural sector like that, and it's not exactly true that $5 [at a museum] isn't worth the same thing as a hamburger," he said.

Calagheros decided to take action and after reaching out to McDonald’s Canada and hearing nothing in response she fired off a press release.  That got some attention.

On Thursday, January 18, Calogheros, as well as, John McAvity, executive director and CEO of the Canadian Museum Association, received calls from a marketing vice president at McDonald’s Canada apologizing for the ads and informing them that the ads were immediately cancelled.

Fast noted that, “BCMA members mobilized quickly yesterday, many contacting their local media outlets and McDonald's Canada directly to express their displeasure and explain why the ad offended them.  McDonald's Canada has heard their voices.  While the BCMA understands that there was no intention to denigrate or cause harm to BC museums, the ad campaign painted museums and their staff in a negative light and offended many across the province.

BC museums, galleries, heritage sites, and related cultural organizations are vital to local communities and we hope this situation will lead to positive community building opportunities including potential partnerships with large corporations like McDonald's Canada.  The BCMA thanks all members who took action to get the ad pulled and encourages them in their continued advocacy work.”

Read more about this story here.




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