McDonald's Mangles Attempt to Reach Ethnic Community

(Image Credit: Keller Grayson Communications)

McDonald's likes to boast that "Nothing can do it like McDonald's," but that sentiment apparently failed to get through to the fast-food giant's ad agency, which reportedly botched a billboard aimed at an Asian community in Minnesota.

The billboard is posted in an area of St. Paul, Minn., populated by members of the Hmong community, an Asian ethnic group originally from the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia.

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The billboard is supposed to translate as: "Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going."

Members of the local community say, however, that the sign's Hmong "Yuavtxhawbpabraukojsawv yuavntxivzograukoj mus" wording is not how they speak.

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"It sounds weird in Hmong because we don't really talk like that," Bruce Thao, 28, a St. Paul resident and doctoral candidate in social work, told the Pioneer Press newspaper. "Either way, there should definitely be spaces in between those words."

The ad also features a coffee cup with the Hmong words for "$1, large or small," a local promo by McDonald's to sell all drinks for $1. Despite the bargain, the locals remain unimpressed by the targeted pitch.

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"The text is also wrong, missing key breaks in the language," Thai Lee, a local doctor, told the paper. "As it stands right now, it doesn't make sense at all."

The Twin Cities of St. Paul and neighboring Minneapolis are home to the largest concentration of Hmong people in the United States, with more 64,000 residents, according to the Hmong American Partnership.

The Partnership, a Twin Cities-based social service and community development organization for the Hmong community, has not responded to a request for comment.

The billboard is the first time the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company has advertised in the Hmong language, a representative for Arnold Advertising, the global advertising firm that worked on the ad with McDonald's, told the Pioneer Press. Last week, the firm posted another McDonald's Hmong-language ad on the other side of the city.

McDonald's has now apologized for the error and said it will correct the signs.

"We strive to reach our guests in relevant ways including the use of in-language messaging," Gregg Miskiel, McDonald's marketing director for the Midwest Region said in a statement issued Tuesday to ABC News.

"While it was our intention to create a special message for our Hmong population in Minnesota, we now realize that an error was made in the translation of "Coffee Gets You Up, Breakfast Gets You Going," he said. "It was not our intention to offend anyone and we apologize for the error. We are working with our local advertising agency to correct these billboards and will re-post next week."

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