Advertising: McDonald's - it's a true Brit burger

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The Independent Online

As we limber up for George Bush's state visit - making the house look nice with fresh flowers and bunting, hanging up polyester nets so he doesn't have to see those horrible neighbours making faces through the window and Laura doesn't catch them in her holiday snaps ("but we thought the little half-timbered British people loved George," they'll say in the Texan women's sewing circle) - this is a time to reflect on Anglo-American relations, and particularly on McDonald's.

The world hasn't been treating McDonald's too well recently. It isn't just that it usually gets the windows kicked in whenever there's an anti-globalisation demo; it's also about overweight kiddies, newer fast-food tastes and all sorts of demoralising trends that have put it on the back foot.

Fast Food Nation was a brilliant analysis of how fast food had shaped strip malls, American agriculture, immigrant labour patterns and practically everything else. But the bit everyone remembered, the absolute Killer Fact, was about hamburger meat coming from cows all over the place, many with bowels pictured in the process. And there was that extra detail about the hourly paid labour using the knife sterilisers to cook their lunches on. As No 1 in hamburgers, that hurt McDonald's, however tight its controls.

So now it is weirdly defensive about practically everything. For instance, there have been these full-page press ads inviting you to see how lovely and clean its kitchens are. I never doubted it. And there's a new commercial whose whole burden is that McDonald's has got a burger that's specially for the people of Britain. Americans can't have it.

From a giant burger spaceship, a defiant Brit harangues bemused Americans in a variety of famous locations - Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge, over the Empire State - from one of those Arne Jacobsen Egg chairs. "People of America, behold, the New Big Tasty. I'm up here loving it. You're down there without it. Sorry America, but this one's for us Brits". Rule Britannia is playing full volume but the burger looks entirely unremarkable. If the open-kitchen thing is called "transparency" (we've nothing to hide) then presumably this mystifying British Burger initiative is called a "glocal" strategy.

So where does the beef come from, and have they got a French burger-spaceship up there too?

Peter@sru.co.uk

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