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McDonald's Pulls Ads From Suggestive Online Content


David Goetzl

January 28, 2008

MCDONALD'S SAID LATE LAST WEEK that it had asked BET to remove ads from a part of the network's Web site that featured women in seductive poses, clad in bikinis and lingerie. The complaint appears to have played a key role in BET opting to remove the "B-Girls" section from move that took place around Jan. 16.

The acknowledgment by McDonald's that it protested the ads contrasts sharply with a statement given by BET last Monday commenting on why it pulled down "B-Girls." The network said it had long planned to remove the section and the action was "unrelated" to "any advertiser feedback of which there was none."

McDonald's appears to have become aware that its banner ads were running on "B-Girls" after Gina McCauley--who runs a blog that seeks to combat negative images of African-American women--launched a campaign targeting advertisers on Jan. 10. It's not clear whether any other "B-Girls" advertisers such as General Mills or the U.S. Army also complained. Calls seeking comment were not immediately returned.

McCauley, an attorney, has been a frequent critic of BET's programming on that it presents a troubling image of African-Americans. She said Friday that McDonald's protesting "B-Girls" "reaffirms the fact that advertisers are the only ones that can keep BET in line. It only takes one."

McDonald's said in a statement, however, that after it found out about its ads on "B-Girls," it "reached out to BET to express our concerns and to ensure that this placement does not happen in the future." McDonald's, which contacted BET via its media agency, also said that the content "in no way represents the values of our brand."

A BET representative could not be reached Friday for comment, as parent Viacom was holding an executive retreat outside the country.

McDonald's is a long-time advertiser on and continues to be one, so the company's protest likely prompted BET to reconsider the "B-Girls" section, though the network had denied it.

The "B-Girls" section encouraged women to send in appealing photos of themselves, with many featuring risqué clothing and suggestive poses. It is unrelated to any BET on-air programming, and was used simply to drive traffic to--and boost interest in--the popular Web site among African-Americans.

For its part, McDonald's did not comment on its protest at first. In an initial statement, the company stood by its "B-Girls" ads, arguing that targets young adults and provides an "appropriate, relevant" environment for the company's initiatives to reach them.


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