Burger company's 'offensive' Madeleine McCann Mother's Day advert banned

A Madeleine McCann Mother's Day ad from The Otley Burger Company has been banned. (SWNS/PA)
A Madeleine McCann Mother's Day ad from The Otley Burger Company has been banned. (SWNS/PA)

A social media advert referencing the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and posted on Mother's Day has been banned.

The ad for a burger truck triggered a series of complaints to watchdogs after it was posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on 27 March.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received three complaints that the ads were likely to cause "distress" and serious or "widespread" offence.

The ASA considered the nature of the content to be of such concern that it asked the relevant social media platforms to remove the content and suspend the account before its investigation began.

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Kate (L) and Gerry (R) McCann, whose daughter Madeleine disappeared from a holiday flat in Portugal ten years ago, are seen during an interview with the BBC's Fiona Bruce at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough on April 28, 2017. 
The parents of Madeleine McCann have vowed to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to find her as they prepare to mark the tenth anniversary of her disappearance.  / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Joe Giddens        (Photo credit should read JOE GIDDENS/AFP via Getty Images)
Kate (L) and Gerry (R) McCann, whose daughter Madeleine disappeared in Portugal. (Getty)

The ad, posted on The Otley Burger Company's social media accounts, stated: “Burgers for dinner?”

Below was an image of Madeleine and her mother Kate, with text which said: “With burgers this good, you'll leave your kids alone. What's the worst that could happen."

A man was shown running in the background with a smaller image of Madeleine in his hands.

Text at the bottom of the post added: “Happy Mother's Day to all the mums out there."

Madeleine has not been seen since she disappeared, aged four, from her bed at a holiday apartment in the resort of Praia da Luz, in the Algarve region of Portugal in May 2003.

The burger firm, based in the West Yorkshire town of Otley, told the ASA that it would not use photos of Kate McCann in such a manner again or superimpose images of Madeleine being kidnapped.

It said that all the ads had been removed and would not be appearing again.

The company also claimed that the image was a "meme" and there was no product placement, so it was not advertising.

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However, the ASA upheld the complaints, finding the ad to be in breach of rules regarding responsible advertising plus harm and offence, and ordered the firm not to publish it again.

An ASA spokesman explained that the ads appeared in non-paid-for space online, which was under the advertiser’s control, and were directly connected with the supply or transfer of The Otley Burger Company’s goods and services, and were therefore marketing communications within the remit of its rules.

He said: "We noted that the ads were all posted on March 27, 2022, which was Mother’s Day.

"We considered that in combination with the images, the posting of the ads on that date was intended to further add to the shock factor and offensive nature of the ads."

The spokesman added: "We also considered it was likely to have compounded the distress of those who saw the ads, and particularly for those who may have experienced the disappearance of a child."

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Candles are placed next to a photo of Madeleine McCann inside the Church of Nossa Senhora da Luz in Praia Da Luz, Portugal, where a special service was held to mark the 10th anniversary of her disappearance.
Candles are placed next to a photo of Madeleine McCann inside a church in Portugal. (Getty)

Otley Burger Company said in a statement: "The supposed advert got banned because 3 people complained.

"3 people who’s [sic] names we will never know because they were offended. the supposed advert did what it had to do and was already taken down by meta before the ASA banned it."

Joe Scholey, 29, the owner of Otley Burger Company, previously laughed off any offence caused by the advert when speaking to Leeds Live and suggested it was published for attention and to bring in more money.

Last year, the firm also shared a post on Father’s Day that included Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, paedophile Jimmy Savile, and serial killer Fred West.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said it had reviewed the content in the Instagram post referencing Madeleine and had removed it for violating its policies.

Meta undertook a broader review of the Instagram account, removed further content and placed restrictions on the account.

Twitter said the tweet had been deleted.