Decoding the Context
Screen grab from McDonald's advertisement posted on youtube.

Screen grab from McDonald’s advertisement posted on McDo Philippines’ youtube account

Earlier this month, McDonald’s Philippines released yet another conspicuous video advertisement that seemingly struck an appeal to the youth couples and millenials in general.

The advertisement, entitled and inspired by an OPM song Tuloy Pa Rin (continuing), portrays a teenager who embraced “change” and simply “moved on” from the pains she endured as she reimagined her man-initiated break-up at the same seat of the fast food chain’s branch where she was about to eat. Thanks to the enticing reminder “Welcome change with the new Burger Mcdo” uttered at the last part of the advertisement which reminded her that the burger product is indeed on her side in times of agony and recuperation.

But what makes such advertisement so alluring? What school of thought is formed out of the dynamics between youth culture and global capitalism?

To make sense of these questions, three facets need to be explored, namely, the representation of the subject, the formation of fervent audience and the repositioning of the context of love and change as fueled by capitalism.

The selection of the subject, referring to the teenage girl alongside her former partner, indicates a predilection for the middle class which seeks to establish devotion to the trending and “in the in” phenomenon. The appeal of the subject itself is already fused with the preference of the middle class and its sympathizers-wannabes, that is, a media product matched with physically-pleasing models, popular sound track and one-liner script, in order to further induce other classes to join the bandwagon of contrived concepts of “letting go” and “moving on” – the catchwords of injudicious millenials nowadays.

And the notion of being a teenage girl and youth in general is equally contentious.

More often than not, capitalist-oriented advertisements promote jejune conceptualization of relational position in society. The girlfriend-boyfriend relationship in this advertisement intends to amass public sympathy from the millenials who experienced first-hand the narcissistic struggles of being “broke” only to find out that the world does not exist to merely please them, more so, that they exist in a world full of political and historical sufferings caused by structural oppressions.

Advertisements as such dilute the critical being of the youth by exploiting their potentials to engage in the democratic discourse of political issues, such as, asserting the right to free and quality education, halting the implementation of K to 12 basic education program, renouncing political harassments and killings of youth community volunteers and activists, among others that ever hound their actuality.

Instead, the media audience significantly those sympathizers of the advertisement create reverie, and worst, a fantasy-based reality that isolates them from the genuine clamour of the general population of Filipino youth.

As a form of media propaganda, the advertisement now captures and confines the youth in a sordid picture of egotism obstructing the quintessential youth formation that supposedly affirm collective over individualistic freedom.

We look at this media product as an instrument of local market dominance and global capitalism.

With over three decades of operations in the Philippines, McDonald’s to date is one of the profitable fast food chains generating multibillions of peso earnings from over 500 branches all over the country. Globally, it is dubbed as the largest fast food restaurant chain operating in over 35,000 locations in 119 countries, according to Investopedia’s The World’s Top 10 Restaurant Companies.

In spite of local and transnational patronage, issues encompassing labor malpractices and health damages chase the hegemonic market rule of McDonald’s.

In the article What McDonalds resurgence tell us about US capitalism republished by Centre for Research on Globalization, Hearse juxtaposed the fast food restaurant’s strategy to implement a 24-hour operations in more than 40 percent of its branches in the United States in 2006 with the required extended working hours of the workforce, thereby increasing company profits yet undermining the conditions of the workers in exchange of maintaining dominance in the global market.

In a related editorial article of the New York Times, despite the 35 percent increase in profits of McDonald’s Corporation in the first quarter of this year, it reported that nearly 23 percent of its workers are paid “at or near the minimum wage”. The raise in pay of at least a US dollar only covers those working at some 1,500 corporate-owned restaurants, thereby disregarding the increase in workers’ pay in 12,500 franchises. This paved way for strengthening the demands for higher wages and union rights as can be seen in recent public protests in the US in the past years where the campaign dubbed “Fight for $15” was launched calling for $15 per hour minimum wage to support the collective struggles of the workers to uphold just remunerations and quality working conditions.

In terms of health issues, Hearse reiterated that the cheeseburger and fries products of the company remain saturated with fat and sodium elements, thus, contributing to poorer health condition among consumers. People deprived of sleep, notably the day-round workers of the company, are more likely to get overweight and thus contribute to further decline of health condition of its workforce and consumers alike.

If the profit-driven McDonald’s is indeed unhypocritical in espousing the dictum of love and change among the youth, why can’t it support the indispensable rights of its workers nor implement structural changes that support such cause?

As a protagonist of global capitalism, it is no surprise that it will relaunch its downright defense of market hegemony that counter labor rights and underpin homogenized global media products i.e., superficial commercial advertisements. On the contrary, we expect that such practices will elicit wider mass resistance against labor oppression and obnoxious media products.

With the recent turnaround in Philippine politics, perhaps it is not the incoming President Duterte, more so, the media that need boycotting this time, but, the burgeoning capitalist establishments that nurture cultural imperialism and global capitalism.

  • McDonald’s released a commercial that both sells its product and touches the hearts of its viewers. Mcdo’s ads have promoted feel-good moments between family and friends, much to the benefit and enjoyment of the public. This is advertising, and as a fast-food chain, they’re welcome to it. The implementation of corporate social responsibility is not always apparent in a company’s branding.
    And as for the youth—you seem to think we’re a shallow, fast-food-eating bunch of kids who will be inordinately affected by ads like this. No. Buried as we are in our world of consumerism (God forbid!) we are capable of living mindfully and effectively, for the betterment of society. In other words, we can do good, and still be fun at parties. Calm your hardened heart. 💕

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