Campus News

Social Media Spotlight: Tweet prompts talks of inclusion in advertising

Jevh Maravilla (right), a media production senior, and Christian Toledo noticed the lack of Asian models in the advertising of a Pearland McDonald’s, so they edited the company’s logo and graphics into a picture of them holding the fast-food chain’s food and placed it on an empty wall at the Pearland location. A tweet sent out by Maravilla, which explained how the poster had been up for 51 days,  went viral on Twitter, generating 400,000 likes in the first 24 hours. |  Courtesy of Jevh Maravilla and Christian Toledo

As Jevh Maravilla and Christian Toledo took the final bites of their Snack Wraps at a Pearland McDonald’s, they noticed none of the restaurant’s posters had Asian models, so the pair formulated a plan to fill an empty wall with advertising of their own.

They edited a photograph of themselves taken at their neighborhood event center — where they modeled with a McDonald’s burger and fries — and put it up as a poster with the help of a group of friends and UH students.

After noticing the franchise had kept the poster for 51 days, Maravilla tweeted about it, generating more than 1 million likes and 252,000 retweets as of Sept. 9.

“If you haven’t noticed, there isn’t a lot of Asians represented in media,” said Maravilla, a media production senior, in a YouTube video he made about the experience. “And hopefully one day I can see someone like me on the big screen.”

‘Highlighting diversity’

According to Marketing Week, minorities constitute only 19 percent of people in advertisements, and 35 percent of the people surveyed feel that Asians are underrepresented — a discussion Maravilla brought to light on social media following the tweet, which reached 400,000 likes within 24 hours.

Although he was born in Texas, Maravilla’s parents are from the Philippines, according to coverage by CNN. Toledo moved here from the Philippines a few years ago.

“We both can’t believe how much attention this has been getting,” Maravilla said to CNN. “I hope this can open the eyes to not just McDonald’s, but other major companies can embrace different ethnicities.”

Maravilla and Toledo edited the fast-food chain’s logo and other graphics used in their posters into a picture of themselves modeling with the company’s food. That same night, they paid $84.99 to print the poster and $6.48 for a McDonald’s uniform at a thrift store, according to the YouTube video.

With a group of friends, they staked out the establishment and waited for employees to clear the area. Then Maravilla, wearing a fake McDonald’s uniform and regional interior coordinator badge, hung the picture of him and Toledo with the help of his friends

Equipped with the uniform and poster, the group pulled off their mission of diversifying advertising at their local McDonald’s.

“We take pride in highlighting diversity in every aspect of our restaurants,” said Mariselle Quijano, owner of the Pearland franchise, according to coverage by CNN. “We applaud these students’ creativity and hope to see them in our restaurants again soon.”

The Pearland franchise has not removed the poster, and McDonald’s corporate communications said they support the franchise’s response, according to CNN.

Breaking stereotypes

Larry Kelley, a professor of advertising at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, said it makes sense to highlight all of a business’ customers.

“The more diverse your customer base, the more that should be reflected in the communication,” Kelley said. “Much of selecting people for advertising is to portray the brand in a positive light, usually by offering an aspirational target.”

Like Nike’s recent campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, companies wanting to improve their image need to “jump on pop culture and become a part of the conversation,” Kelley said.

“The UH guys caught ‘lightning in a bottle’ with their effort,” Kelley said. “It resonated since it was a positive message and eventually supported by McDonald’s since it was an offshoot of their core values.”

Though they had nothing to do with the viral tweet, Kelley said it worked out for McDonald’s since they’re getting free publicity and the opportunity to embrace diversity.

The advertising industry started improving in terms of diversity as the country’s diversity increased, he said.

Brands do the unexpected and push boundaries to include various groups, he said, and that helps break down stereotypes, like in Guinness’ commercial featuring a gay rugby player.

Maravilla said all groups deserve recognition.

“To this day, I can say the poster has been up since, and I really hope they’ll never take it down,” Maravilla said in a YouTube video.

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