Advertising standards said the post made light of a distressing news story
A burger van advert referencing the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been banned by advertising standards for being likely to cause serious offence and distress.
Meta said that they had reviewed the content in the Instagram post and had removed it for violating their policies.
The Otley Burger Company in Leeds used images of the McCanns to promote their burgers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The sick advert posted on 27 March, Mothers Day, said “Burgers for dinner?”.
Below was an image of Madeleine McCann and her mother Kate, with the words, “WITH BURGERS THIS GOOD, YOU’LL LEAVE YOUR KIDS AT HOME. WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN”.
In the background a man was shown running with a smaller image of Madeleine McCann in his hands. Text at the bottom of the post stated “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE MUMS OUT THERE.”
An investigation was carried out by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) the UK's independent regulator for advertising, who asked the relevant social media platforms to remove the content and suspend the account pending investigation.
The meme didn't name the McCanns, but ASA said it considered the images would be instantly recognisable to many people and that any reference to a missing child was likely to be distressing. In the context of an ad promoting a burger company, the distress caused was unjustified.
Meta (Facebook) said that they had reviewed the content in the Instagram and Facebook post and had removed it for violating their policies. Twitter said the tweet had been deleted.
The Otley Burger Company said the image was a meme and there was no product placement, so it was not advertising. After ASA banned the advert, they said that it had been removed and would not be appearing again.
The ASA ruling has been widely reported by national press and caused a wave of outrage across social media.
"Nobody should buy anything from the Otley Burger Company. They should be closed down. Disgusting advert," said one post on Twitter.
"I don't live near Otley but in any case I would NEVER buy a burger from you if this is your idea of good advertising! #Tasteless" wrote another.
One social media user though was quick to point out that this isn't the first time the McCann family appear to have been used as the butt of a bad joke.
I'm gonna guess that everyone bitching about a Madeleine McCann joke today has a copy of Cards Against Humanity and thinks it's fine because 'it's different when a card game does it.' pic.twitter.com/8Q5Hx8U3qu
— Ivo Refusenik (@ArchBastard) April 20, 2022
The Otley Burger Company, a truck takeaway and delivery service based in Yorkshire, seems to be enjoying the attention that they have received from the case.
On Easter Sunday they posted on Facebook:
"Don’t worry if you didn’t get an Easter egg today. There’s plenty of people that didn’t get a card on worlds aids day neither.. Happy Easter. We would post something controversial but will end up getting told off by some turnips."
Despite the advert being removed, the meme of the McCanns was still available on the burger truck's Facebook page at time of writing.