Parents may think they have the hard time answering a child who asks where babies come from, but recently fired "MythBusters" cast member Grant Imahara may ultimately have the tougher job as he tries to explain to young fans why he chose to inform them about eyeballs and pink slime as the new mouthpiece for McDonald's.
“What’s ‘pink slime’ and why the heck is Grant from MythBusters saying it’s not in chicken nuggets,” Quin, age 10, asked as Mr. Imahara’s voice filled the room while we listened to NPR together Sunday morning. “Telling me it’s not in there just makes me think it is. Also he’s talking about eyeballs and lips and stuff not in the food. I am never eating there. Ever.”
“Our food. Your questions. What are McRib patties made of,” is the new McDonald's commercial approach NPR was examining. The ad trades on Mr. Imahara’s reputation with kids and families as a scientist who dispels urban legends and myths on the Discovery Channel.
"Increasing transparency is generally thought to be a positive as well, for almost any business, but in particular for those focused on food. Many consumers say that they want more transparency, especially when it comes to what they’re putting inside their bodies and those of their children," Time reports.
But given my son’s response, parents who advocate healthy food choices may want to thank the corporate marketing team for this ad’s unintended effect of making McDonald's food even less appealing.
In my opinion, the corporate giant has met its destiny on the road it took to avoid it. NPR on Sundays is as much a Suhay family tradition for our four sons, ages 10-20, as Mythbusters has been since the first episode aired in 2003 (before Quin was born).
We sat together and listened as Imahara dispelled the urban legends that chicken nuggets are made of “pink slime” and his assurances that “there are no eyeballs or lips in a McRib” sandwich.
“Wait what? Now I have to look up the ‘pink slime’ and eyeballs and all the stuff he’s talking about,” said Quin as he abandoned the stereo for the computer and every anti-McDonald's food YouTube video ever made.
Quin also insisted on seeing the Imahara McDonald's video for himself to verify it really was his geek hero, the same electrical engineer known for the show Battle Bots, Star Wars tech work, and MythBusters.
Quin refused to believe it was a man of science shoring up the case for the same fast food his parents routinely reject as a family eating option.
In addition to dredging up all the old perceived horrors about the company’s food the selection of a former MythBuster appears to be a direct attack by the fast food giant on the parent-friendly Boston-based Corporate Accountability International which has become known in parenting circles in recent years for its anti-junk food videos titled “Food Mythbusters.”
I called Jesse Bragg, media director for Corporate Accountability International to ask if his organization had seen the new Imahara ads.
“This campaign is just a desperate attempt to try to change people's minds about the beleaguered junk food brand- – but it misses the mark,” Mr. Brag responded in email. “Yes, people are concerned about what is in McDonald's food, but they're also concerned about how it's being marketed, especially to kids. Instead of making changes that actually address these concerns, the corporation comes back time and time again with more marketing to change people's perception of its food instead of actually changing the food itself.”
Bragg called the food giant “tone deaf” in its approach with this ad.
“People expect burgers to have beef in them and they expect chicken nuggets to have chicken in them,” Bragg explained. “The fact that McDonald's needs an ad campaign to convince people of this shows just how negative its reputation is. While other fast food and fast casual brands are marketing their food as higher quality, organic and non-GMO, McDonald's is still just trying to convince people its food is real.”
Overall this campaign appears to have blown up like a MythBuster experiment gone wrong as fans take to social media to vent.
Some kids are bound to ask why Imahara is shilling for the McMan.
Parents can point to the fact that back in August the MythBusters producers decided to fire its “Build Team” members Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara so the show can revert to its original recipe of starring only the original two cast members Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, according to Cinema Blend.
I told Quin we shouldn’t condemn the actor because adults are often forced to make compromises in order to survive in a bad economy.
My son replied, “I forgive him.”
Ultimately, parents will forgive celebrities for unpopular choices more readily than they will big corporations for over processing and tapping their child’s role models in an effort to sell a burger.