#157 No Appetite for McDonald’s Humor in Italy

During the summer of 2019, Italians’ didn’t show much appetite for a meal from American fast food giant McDonald’s. The reason was a failed attempt at being funny in another, neighboring market – Austria. While McDonald’s promotions in the United States often focus on price and value, it has become common in other countries to lure customers to its stores with special promotion weeks that feature limited-time, unique menu items. In Austria, such campaigns included, for instance, the “Maennerwochen” (“Guys Weeks”) during which it offers burgers with extra bacon, meat, or cheese that particularly appeal to a male audience.. In addition, McDonald’s advertising in Austria is known for its often humorous plays on words. In July 2019, it was time again for such a special promotion. In rolling out their Italian-inspired, limited-time menu that included items such as Mozzarella sticks or the “Chicken Amore” sandwich with fresh basil, McDonald’s added to their billboard advertising what they thought was a funny slogan: “Fuer echte Mampfiosi”. What translates into “For real Mampfiosi” is a play on the German word “Mampf” (meaning “to chow down”) and mafiosi – of course referring to Italy’s infamous criminal organization. Italy’s social media-savvy Interior Minister Matteo Salvini quickly took up the cause on his Facebook page, lamenting the use of the common, unflattering stereotype by McDonald’s. Soon thereafter, the Italian Newspaper La Repubblica reported on the issue, and foreign media in various countries were fast to pick up the story. Faced with growing pressure from Italian consumers and the media, McDonald’s Austria reacted swiftly and took down the billboards. Their new slogan, “Fuer echte Amici” (“For true friends”) seems to be a much better fit for the Italian palate…

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