McDonalds Runs Riot in Copenhagen

I first heard about this on the BBC World Service last Tuesday. And, sure enough, at least the main Danish daily Politiken has a report on it:Copenhagen Accuses McDonalds of Pillage. (Hærværk in Danish = “pillage,” “plunder,” “rapine”? It literally means “army-work.” Any Dane out there who can give me the best translation?) This despite the fact that lately the Danish press has been inundated across-the-board (except for the business paper Børsen, naturally) by coverage of the just-announced engagement of Prince Frederik of Denmark (age 35) to a certain Mary Donaldson (age 31) of Australia – definitely outside of the EuroSavant remit! Call me in when they start to cheat on each other and/or engage in fatal auto accidents.

What, you ask (if you didn’t catch it on the BBC on Tuesday), did McDonalds do to earn accusations of hærværk?

Well, it seems that McDonalds, and/or its hired marketeers got rather enthusiastic about its latest Danish advertising campaign, featuring the slogan (yes, in English) “I’m Lovin’ It!” Really rather too enthusiastic: they blanketed the city – public benches, statues, walls – with plastic bands proclaiming that “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan. According to Jacob Winther, chief of information for Copenhagen City’s building- and technical-management department, quoted in the Politiken article, the city had already asked McDonalds to stop all that last Thursday. But stop they didn’t; indeed, they went on to worse. Copenhagen residents discovered on Monday not only numerous sidewalks, but also some of their most prominent city monuments painted over with “I’m Lovin’ It.” These including the Storkespringvandet, a notable fountain depicting numerous storks and situated at what really is the central intersection of the Strøget, or Copenhagen’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, and it also included the statue of Absalon not far away – only a depiction of the mythical founder of the city of Copenhagen, situated in the shadow of the Parliament (or Folketing) building!

As Mr. Winther points out in the Politiken article, “We don’t wish for large parts of the city to become part of an advertising campaign without consultation with us, and we don’t desire at all this type of campaign.” Now, McDonalds Danmark spokesman Kristian Scheef Madsen was very apologetic to the press, telling Politiken “We did not at any point do anything to provoke. . . . Whatever the City says that we can do, we will do that. We are very sorry that the communications went wrong.” Still, that did not prevent the City from filing a police complaint against McDonalds. And it looks like the bill that will be sent to McDonalds totals some 20,000 Danish kroner (= €2,700; oh, that is really cheap!) Plus, on the BBC, I heard a Danish “graffiti expert” (wow: a “graffiti expert,” and he spoke very good English at that) warn that, unfortunately, the painting on the statues, fountains, and sidewalks had been done in such a way that it would be very difficult to get off.

(I also heard Mr. Madsen being interviewed, in English, on the BBC. Yes, he was very sorry, but he was not sorry enough to go beyond saying “We are very sorry,” in about a hundred different variations, all the while stonewalling the BBC interviewer’s attempts to gain further information: Who exactly had done this? What precisely had gone wrong? etc. “We’re not going to talk about that.” So he apparently was not sorry enough to depart from his PR “message” to actually provide the BBC, and its listening public – which, who knows, maybe even included some Copenhagen residents, whose city his company had just defiled – with any useful information.)

Denmark’s a small country, to be sure, one that people who don’t actually live there often don’t take much notice of. But let’s try to imagine some analogous incident, in the United States, say: the Washington Monument and Lincoln’s statue in the Lincoln Memorial painted over with McDonalds’ latest silly advertising slogan. For your information, “boycott” in Danish is boykot; “to boycott” is simply boykotte.

[Late addition: A €S reader from, I believe, Norway informs me that hærværk is best translated as “vandalism.” Thanks, Bruce!]

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