Does McDonald's market disproportionately to black people?

I was discussing dieting and a fast food this afternoon at the gym with an acquaintance, and he told me that in seeing the various TV ads for McDonalds he believed McDonalds was really focusing on black people as the core marketing group they wanted to appeal to these days.

He said the ads show black people (men specifically) taking their families and girlfriends to McDonald’s for lunch and dinner as some big treat, but he said he can’t recall the last time he saw a McDonald’s ad showing the same for a white family or white couple.

I haven’t had a broadcast TV for about a year so I can’t verify his observations. Blacks are only about 14% of the US population so this seemed somewhat unlikely to me. Any truth to his supposition?

I don’t know about American adverts but over here that is not the case; what they show instead is something that tries to appeal to absolutely every body. That will include black people and if you’re a racist (I’m not saying your friend is) you will notice the black people and wonder about what’s going on there, while ignoring all the other colours.

Also note that if they tried to represent a few ethnicities then there would be a lot of brown/yellow people that your friend may have seen as black.

I don’t know if they are marketing disproportionately to black Americans. They are making a concerted effort to target that demographic, but I certainly don’t think they’re ignoring the rest of the market. So, I guess I would ask you to clarify your question.

Disproportionate to what? To their competitors and most US consumer product companies? Almost certainly. To other minority groups in the US? Definitely. To the amount they spend on general advertising that is arguably targeted primarily to white Americans? Almost certainly not. I don’t have their ad spend numbers, but I’m fairly confident in my speculation.

I’ve always felt McDonalds is aiming at the broadest possible demographic. It’s not looking to be a niche product. It markets to everyone.

That was my question too… just because a target demographic that apparently spends a lot of money at their restaurant happens to be an ethnic minority, doesn’t make it racist, wrong or even worthy of scrutiny.

There are plenty of companies that market heavily toward different demographics- daytime TV is notorious for commercials for rent-to-own places and ambulance chasers, while you don’t see much of that during the day.

Market segmentation isn’t inherently racist, sexist or any “ist”. It’s just smart business.

Re clarification the clear implication in his conversation was that he thought McDonalds was doing this because the (white) middle class increasingly does not consider McDonalds to be particularly desirable or healthy food these days, and McDonald’s was quite deliberately recalibrating it’s marketing to target more vulnerable and less nutritionally informed/aware populations.

The last 5-6 years I’ve noticed more advertisements overall w/ a broader range of people represented. There was an SNL skit back in the 90’s where ad executives were horrified at the sight of an interracial couple in a commercial for their product, their discomfort was supposed to be funny but it made me pay closer attention to who I saw in ads. Until somewhat recently, unless a product was aimed very specifically at one group you didn’t see much more than physically-fit white people. It’s good to see that’s changing.

McDonald’s wants everybody’s money and has for a few years had a diverse appeal in their ads. I don’t agree w/ your acquaintance about their commercials.

First hit

I think it depends on where you’re watching those commercials. I live in the Detroit area, here our Mcommercials feature plenty of black actors. Just got home from visiting the parents in a very white area upstate, and all their Mcommercials featured white actors. They target the market they’re in, that’s all.

I agree. It seems to me that McDonald’s commercials here target a black audience, but then Memphis is a black majority city.

Does Burger King market disproportionately to morons?


In that case, I’d say your acquaintance is full of shit. McDonalds markets to black Americans directly, there’s no question about it. So what? They market to white Americans twice as much or more, on a slow day.

White Americans eat as much, if not more shitty food than black Americans. I’m sure there are way more mainstream ads than black American ads. So what? Who cares? Eat at McDonalds if you want. Who gives a fuck? What is the substance of his argument?

If your “acquaintance” is reluctant to eat at McDonalds because they market “to the blacks” then fuck him. You shouldn’t have anything to do with him if you can help it.

Oddly enough, the attitude behind his position was that McDonlds was being somewhat exploitative of blacks in targeting them to push their crappy food.

Oh the memories…

Without taking a survey of the ads on television or billboards in American cities I’m not sure I can answer the question. Of the McDonald’s ads I can think of over the past few years quite a few of them feature mostly white people. The ad where people were drumming on the tables and the one where the creepy old guy suggests to a young man he should order the 20 piece nuggets to share with a girl are the two I can think of off the top of my head. As far as the black ads go, well, we have the one where they’re all playing pool, the recent Olympic ad with the female boxer and now I’m stumped. I do think they advertise more towards African Americans than they did 20 years ago.

Not sure about the marketing efforts to blacks, but I have noticed a trend towards a more adult clientele. Many of the McD’s have been remodeled with less of the ‘kiddie clown’ colors and have a more refined grown-up look. Also their push towards quality coffee and other such drinks as well as more ‘upscale’ burgers such as the Angus ones. And their commercials way back used to feature the clown and the others such as the Fry Guys, Grimace, etc, so catering to children. Now you hardly see them expect maybe on a happy meal box
The commercial where a black b/f buys his g/f lunch at McD’s may have more to do with trying to change McD’s image, wanting to diminish the ‘fast food’ aspect and be considered more on par with other casual restaurants. That is how I take that commercial.

We haven’t had a Church’s chicken in Canada for years, but whenever I see ads for it (admittedly on PeachTree TV), I always see black patrons being portrayed. I haven’t noticed that for McDonald’s or the other burger chains. Wendy’s has that hot ginger chick in them these days, so at least that one isn’t uniformly black!

Pardon me. Would you have any Grey Poupon?

I don’t think that’s true. The obsesity rate for black Americans is disproportionally high compared to white Americans. So are the rates of obesity-related illness. This is at least partly because poor people don’t really have many healthy food options, and minorities are disproportionally poor. I’d also wager that minorities also make up a good percentage of McDonalds’ employees - again, because of poverty. Marketing more to minorities than to white people would actually be fairly rational of McDonalds.

I don’t think the friend was being racist, it sounds like his problem was the exploitation of minorities and/or taking advantage of people who have less nutritional knowledge and fewer nutritional options.

The cable channel Centric which is supposed to be black themed programming but has a lot of vaguely qualifying shows like A Team reruns plays commercials for fast food places made with all black casts that aren’t on the main networks. I imagine they tailor it to demographics, there were quite a few commercials in Houston featuring hispanic casts which I wondered if they were nationwide.