“Transparency Campaign”: McDonald’s Smugly Reveals Its Ad Burgers are Photoshopped

So McDonald’s advertisement burger is Photoshopped.

This is old news online, and to anyone who’s eaten an actual McDonald’s burger.

Yet, despite publicly airing the fact that its ad burger is both digitally altered and made from completely different ingredients, McDonald’s is still flipping more burgers than any other fast food chain.

In fact, people seemed to enjoy the behind-the-scenes video that McDonald’s marketing department created to show how its photo shoot burger is made. It went viral, and not in any debunking kind of way. 

Maybe it’s just me, but their “transparency” — or rather, apparent smug glee over getting away with telling the world they make a high-quality “ad burger” while continuing to sell us the limp stand-in — seems weird.

The weirder thing is that they’re getting away with it.


Enter: the halo effect.

I’ll admit it. McDonald’s burger billboards have lured me in on more than one occasion. There’s a big image of a juicy red tomato and dark green lettuce leaf, a patty that looks home-grilled, a slice of actual cheese, and not much sauce. Hmm… seems reasonably healthy.

Of course, what I always get is a creepy light-pink mushy thing. A soggy slip of iceberg. “Cheese.” And a grayish-brown patty with weird little tentacle suction cup-looking things (what are those???).

Did I notice at the time? Or, after seeing the advertisement, was I still visualizing fresh garnishes and a plump non-odd-looking beef patty as I gobbled the actual thing?

I have to wonder, because I’ve eaten it more than once.

The brain has a funny way of affecting taste.

I think this is the only way the consumption of fast food can be explained. I mean, chains like McDonald’s and Dominos Pizza are publicly announcing that they’re making garbage and people still eat it. It must be the promise made by the pictures?

Fast food disclosures like the McDonald’s Photoshopped burger video are essentially propaganda. And as I wrote in a U.S. News piece, we’re hardwired to fall for it.

But beyond our inclination to trust displays of “honesty,” it seems that when it comes to unhealthy food dressed up all pretty, what we taste is influenced by what we see.

So we may buy something because it looks good, and this doctoring-up actually changes our perception of the taste. The halo effect makes eating nutritiously rather tricky, doesn’t it?


You might also enjoy: Is The “Ritual” You Enjoy At Starbucks A Figment Of Everyone’s Imagination?


I’m a health writer and graduate student. I'm interested in the wily side of health – self sabotage, persuasion, and why health campaigns so often manage to inadvertently piss people off.

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