The Producer of McDonalds Gets Grilled, which aired on Seven last night, has defended the show amid criticisms it was an Advertorial masquerading as a Documentary.
The one hour programme saw six members of the public, who agreed only to appear in a doco about food, visiting McDonalds suppliers and stores to learn about how the products were sourced and assembled.
The show was funded by McDonald’s Australia in a bid to explode urban myths about the fast food, especially regarding how unhealthy it may be.
The show opened with a title card: “McDonald’s have funded the following independently produced program McDonald’s Gets Grilled.”
Producer Wayne Dyer from WTFN told TV Tonight the project came about after McDonalds asked them to produce a show about their product for primetime commercial television.
“We told them they had to let us make a programme that was credible, that had integrity, with editorial control and at the end of the day we were the ones who knew what a network would buy,” says Dyer.
“It took a little convincing, but I believe it was a very bold risk. Probably one of the boldest moves by a major company to say ‘Ok you guys make the story.’”
The six members of the public were a range of people whose views on the food ranged from loving it to hating it, including one man who hadn’t eaten their burgers in 20 years.
“McDonalds had no input into the selection of those people,” Dyer explains.
“So many people have what I have now found out to be, misconceptions about the ingredients that go into their food. And McDonald’s to their credit allowed us to do that.
“We could have done it as an Advertorial and it probably would have ended up as a glorified corporate video on their website.
“But if you want it in primetime you’ve got to let us make the sort of show that will interest a network and be interesting entertainment and at the same time informs you.”
McDonalds relinquished editorial control and allowed Producers to construct the scenes and storytelling. It did contract a viewing of the finished product which Dyer says was mostly to address any inaccuracies.
“They alerted us to about half a dozen things that were not quite accurate so we had to remove them or trim them back so they weren’t inaccurate.
“Again to their credit they allowed us to leave in quite a lot of negative stuff.”
“But I’ve never seen an advertorial that allows people to bag the product.”
Host Steve Liebmann also wanted assurances that there wouldn’t be editorial interference by McDonalds.
Nevertheless the programme has also come under fire because Seven did not pay for the doco and McDonald’s didn’t buy the airtime. Given a plum timeslot directly following Revenge, the move reeks of a client “freebie.”
Dyer wouldn’t be drawn on Seven’s motives, but noted that ‘negative purchase value’ programmes are not uncommon and Seven made no guarantees about what timeslot the show would ultimately nab.
But he was critical of the Screen Producers Association, which dismissed the programme sight unseen as an Advertorial.
“I was disappointed with Geoff Brown from the Screen Producers saying ‘It’s not a Documentary, it’s Advertorial.’ I thought, ‘You haven’t seen the show or spoken to our company,'” says Dyer.
“It was disappointing.”
By the end of the hour, the six posed questions to McDonald’s CEO Katrina Noble. While some had changed their viewpoint, one woman still considered the food too unhealthy.
No doubt the line in the sand will be decided by viewers. As a Documentary it was a speedy, mostly complimentary hour full of colourful shots of fluffy farms and wide Australian vistas. As an Advertorial is was far more successful, never having to delve too deeply into the dark side -and staying right away from bigger corporate questions, such as company profits and employee relations.
On Twitter last night #mcgrilled was getting a hammering:
it’s a sad day when the ad becomes the program, in primetime
Amazing, beef comes from cows and potato chips come from potatoes, I’ll sleep well tonight!
From watching this I’ve Learnt that McDonalds has delicious burgers, tasty fries and refreshing soft drinks
Surprise Aus has an obesity problem, they are telling us white bread, sugar dipped potatoes and deep fried chicken are healthy!
If a thick shake has less fat than full cream milk, WTF is it made from?!?
Is this the McDonald’s employee orientation video?
Hello Channel 7, Hungry Jack’s is on the phone, they have this great idea for a one-hour TV show…
I’m so amazed that a CEO could take the time out to visit a documentary being broadcast on national TV about her company.
Dyer, who was a Nine News reporter before turning Producer, has also produced Logie-Award winning doco Trishna and Krishna. He remains happy with the finished McDonald’s product and it would be hard not to argue that at the very least the client has met the brief.
Then again, maybe they could have just played a little bit of Troy McClure….?