Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.
It is the most pervasive bit of bad PR for the fast-food industry, and particularly for McDonald's: news of a byproduct called "pink slime" used in some processed meats.
So you would think McDonald's would do everything it could to avoid reminding consumers of the nauseating stuff. Instead, McDonald's Canada has made it the centre of its latest ad.
In response to a question sent to the company about what is in its Chicken McNuggets, the company gave an inside look at how the food is prepared in Canada – addressing what it says is a misconception. Pink slime is actually a byproduct in red meat, not in chicken, and the company says it is not part of any of its products.
The video is part of an award-winning campaign that McDonald's Canada launched in 2012, offering to answer any questions about its food – no matter how insulting or unsavoury – that customers have.
McDonald's Canada has already attracted millions of viewers online by pulling back the curtain on how it photoshops its burgers for advertisements; revealing the recipe for its Big Mac sauce; and addressing allegations that "100 per cent Pure Beef" is the name of a company created so that it could make spurious claims about the quality of its meat.
The company advertised the existence of the newest video in an ad on television on Sunday during the Canadian broadcast of the Super Bowl.
A second video addresses concerns about ground-up bones and other parts of a whole chicken being included in the mix that makes McNuggets.
The Canadian subsidiary of the fast-food giant has been lauded for grasping the importance of transparency in an age when consumers demand to know more about the companies they buy from. It's a strategy that requires bravery – many marketers would be too shy about addressing such negative questions for fear of reminding consumers that those doubts exist about their basic product quality. n
Since being posted on Jan. 31, the "pink slime" video has attracted more than one million viewers.
Prospective viewers are warned that it takes a strong stomach and a real desire to know where your food comes from; the ground-up and reconstituted chicken could certainly be described as slimy-looking, if a more natural shade of beige.