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McDonald's apologizes for controversial Big Mac ad parodying depression

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McDonald’s asked that that the ad be taken down immediately.iStock

Think mental illness is funny?  McDonald's doesn’t.  The fast food giant is distancing itself from an ad that is said to trivialize depression.

The ad, which appeared on Boston's mass transit this month, shows a woman with her head in her hand, and a headline that reads: “You’re Not Alone.”  In smaller print are the words: “Millions of people love the Big Mac,” and included is an 800 number that is the line for McDonald’s.

(See a picture of the ad here.)

Nicole DiNoia, a McDonald's rep for the Boston area, said in a statement to Time magazine that the ad was "not approved by McDonald's and that we asked that it be taken down immediately." She adds: "We have an approval process in place with our marketing and advertising agencies to ensure that all advertising content is consistent with our brand values. Regrettably, in this incident, that process was not followed. We sincerely apologize for this error."

The Boston Herald reported that the agency behind the ad stepped forward and apologized yesterday to McDonald’s and to anyone who was offended. 

Pam Hamlin, president of Boston-based Arnold Worldwide, said: “McDonald’s did not approve the ad, and its release was our unintended error,” Hamlin said in a statement. “We’ve addressed the issue and have improved our approval process to ensure this does not happen in the future.”

Mental health advocates yesterday blasted the McDonald’s.

“It’s really too bad because it trivializes the whole issue of depression,” said Julie Totten, executive director of Waltham-based Families for Depression Awareness told the Herald. “We’re trying to say when you need help, it’s not a laughing matter. We don’t want people to feel stigmatized or made fun of.”