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'McDonald's, what is wrong with you?' MullenLowe president pens open letter asking brand to contribute to culture

MullenLowe president Geoff Cottrill has written an open letter to McDonalds in response to claims that the burger brand had used the work of street artists in a promotion video without permission. 

Wrriting on his personal Facebook profile, Cottrill began by asking McDonald’s ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ in regards to reports that it had used the work of some graffiti artists within a promotional video to promote the launch of a new sandwich there. As a result, the group is now reportedly set to sue. 

The video, entitled “McDonald’s Presents the Vibe of Bushwick NY,” was created to promote the new New York Bagel Supreme, although it was removed from all associated online platforms following the threat of legal action. 

The use of the work however has also sparked an angry response by Cottrill who questions the overall brand ethos of McDonald’s who also called on it to use its resource in order to contribute to instead of taking from creative culture. 

“If you want to be relevant then DO things FOR culture. (Sic) You choose to sponsor the world. You choose to co-opt creativity. It’s complete bullshit. You could make a difference in this world. You should support these people, not steal from them. It’s so simple. Yet, you somehow are unable to grasp it,” he wrote. 

Later in his message he added: “Many of these artists you steal from I’m lucky enough to have had the opportunity to get to know, work with, and even purchase art from. They are hard working, extremely talented, good people. Many of these people I call my friends, and I consider myself lucky enough to do so. Many of them don’t have the platform to speak up. So, I’m helping them do so. And you, you are despicable.” 

According to Andrew Gerber, the lawyer acting on behalf of the six artists, who spoke to Artnet, McDonalds did speak to the building owners on which the art appears, however is apparently did not seek the permissions of the artists themselves. 

McDonalds has claimed that it had commissioned a number of artists to create work for the video, however the six suing the firm claim not to have been contacted or agreed for their work to appear within the film as well. 

Meanwhile the six artists who are featured in the video will fly to the Netherlands to create billboards to promote the sandwich using graffiti. 

The full message by Cottrill can be read below unedited. 

Dear McDonalds,
What the hell is wrong with you? 
You have so lost your way that it makes me sick. You used to be a great global brand. Now, I don’t even know what to think of you.
Now, you’re trying so hard to maintain relevancy that you’re doing the most moronic things I’ve seen a brand do in a long time.
What is wrong with you? 
Who is making your brand decisions??
Your marketing team, your agency, and your consultants should all be FIRED.
What I saw at SxSW disgusted me. Your fake hip hop bullshit song for your Big Mac is an embarrassment to not only yourself, but also to anyone in marketing. It’s also an insult to music itself.
You continue to attempt to co-opt culture. It’s not only shallow, it’s just wrong. You are the person who just tries and tries too hard to be cool.
Here’s some free advice from a former CMO, a current president of an agency, and a former consumer of yours…..use your global position, your vast resources, to CONTRIBUTE to culture. If you want to be relevant then DO things FOR culture. You choose to sponsor the world. You choose to co-opt creativity. It’s complete bullshit. You could make a difference in this world. You should support these people, not steal from them. It’s so simple. Yet, you somehow are unable to grasp it.
You’re so “big & obvious” and you wonder why you’re no longer relevant. I realize that you’re facing some macro trends with health & wellness and that it’s a real business challenge for you. As you figure that out, why do you do such stupid things that are simply accelerating your decline?
And now, you’re using street artists work without getting permission? Are you kidding me? You should be ashamed of yourself. You know better than to use someone’s work without their permission. Shame on you.
Many of these artists you steal from I’m lucky enough to have had the opportunity to get to know, work with, and even purchase art from. They are hard working, extremely talented, good people. Many of these people I call my friends, and I consider myself lucky enough to do so. Many of them don’t have the platform to speak up. So, I’m helping them do so.
And you, you are despicable.
But, after seeing the film about how Ray Kroc took advantage of the original founders of your Company….it’s really no surprise that you would once again steal others ideas, dreams, and work for your own gain.
I used to love you. Your fries are so delicious. 
Now, you simply make me sick.
Yes, you should be ashamed of yourself. 
And, your Board of Directors should be asking some tough questions about the people running your brand.
Go ahead internet, criticize my POV all you want…


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