Just in time for Jared “Subway Guy” Fogle’s child pornography charges comes John “McDonald’s Guy” Cisna and his weigh loss story. In a 20-minute “documentary” produced by McDonald’s, the Iowa high school teacher relates how he at only McDonald’s food for six months and lost 60 pounds. It seems that, as with boxing or bachelors, America just cannot do without a singular fast-food weight loss king. But does McDonald’s really need or want its own Jared?
The message, aimed at high schoolers and youths, is right there in the title—540 Meals: Choices Make the Difference. The film is making the rounds in schools around the US, and is currently being promoted by the New York Tri-State McDonald’s franchisees to educators. Never mind that the stunt has been repeated many times since Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me documentary in 2004.
Cisna’s feats began to pick up steam last year, when (as if made for the show’s format, ad sales team and audience) his weight loss story was featured on NBC’s Today Show in 2014. His Twitter feed shows him making the rounds of McDonald’s locations across the US.
Cisna’s short film is not the first to come out of the Super Size Me phenomenon; witness comedian Doug Benson’s marijuana-fueled Super High Me. Meanwhile, Don Gorske, credited by the Guinness Book of Records for eating tens of thousands of Big Macs and also appeared in Super Size Me, also got his own 2005 documentary Don Gorske: Mac Daddy. (Incidentally, Gorske is tall and rather lean.)
Choices Make the Difference isn’t even the first story about eating McDonald’s and losing weight, either. In 2008, 40-year-old Doug Logeais was all the rage after he claimed to have lost 15 pounds in one month eating only McDonald’s. That same year, Virginian Chris Coleson lost 86 pounds after eating only McDonald’s for half a year. “Has McDonald’s Found Its Jared?” asked Ad Age.
In fact, two years ago, McDonald’s own CEO Don Thompson told the press how he lost 20 pounds simply by eating a “McDiet.”
McDonald’s has made Cisna a brand ambassador, but they’d be wise to also not turn Cisna into the brand’s own Jared. Mucking about with Cisna’s documentary is a calorie-value war fought more than a decade ago. Cisna’s life may be going forward but his story, from McDonald’s perspective, should be one of the past.
But an even bigger bomb is ticking in McDonald’s hands with its official partnership. Cisna’s documentary, the press release says, is “available for high school educators looking for information to demonstrate the importance of balanced food choices.” To parents, that is going to sound suspiciously like McDonald’s is looking for an edu-washed marketing campaign to get its brand in front of impressionable young minds with a tacit endorsement from authority figures.
And don’t forget that Jared started his own foundation, with Subway’s blessing, to promote the gospel of healthy eating to school kids — a foundation whose executive director turned out to be a pedophile in cahoots with Jared, so associating weight loss brand ambassadors with a public health program for kids may not be the wisest move at this juncture.
In fact, The Cleveland Clinic just terminated the lease for the McDonald’s restaurant located at the main hospital center. The move it part of the hospital’s program to “promote healthy food choices, exercise and a smoke-free environment,” said Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil to CNN. “Our goal is to reduce the risk factors that contribute significantly to chronic diseases.”
Furthermore, McDonald’s Cisna partnership may undermine the big deal it’s making about its “modern makeover” and commitment to become a “progressive burger company.” In short, it’s an old school PR move whose timing couldn’t be worse. Your thoughts?