‘Distressing’ burger van advert banned for making light of missing Madeleine McCann

The advert had a picture of Madeleine and mum Kate and a caption reading: ‘With burgers this good, you’ll leave your kids alone. What’s the worst that could happen. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there’

The Otley Burger Company owner Joe Scholey faced criticism after sharing an image of Madeleine McCann to promote his business

A burger company has been banned for causing unjustified stress after using images of Madeleine McCann in a Mother’s Day advert.

The ad for The Otley Burger Company’s burger truck sparked fury as complaints were lodged with watchdogs after it was posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter last month.

It asked “Burgers for dinner?”, with a picture of Madeleine and mum Kate.

The rest of the “offensive” text read: “With burgers this good, you’ll leave your kids alone. What’s the worst that could happen. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there.”

In the background, a smaller image of a man can be seen running off holding what is meant to be Madeleine, Daily Star reports.

This is the ad that caused offense



Madeleine disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz in May 2007.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have social media platforms to remove it after receiving three complaints that the ad would likely cause “distress” and “widespread” offence.

Furthermore, the ASA requested that The Otley Burger Company’s accounts be suspended pending an investigation.

The company argued it was a ‘meme’ and that it technically wasn’t an ad as there was no product placement


Samuel Port)

The Yorkshire-based company said that all the ads were removed and wouldn’t appear again, telling the ASA that it wouldn’t use images of Kate or Madeleine again.

They further argued it was a “meme” and that it technically wasn’t an ad as there was no product placement.

The ASA dismissed this, finding the ad to breach rules regarding responsible advertising as well as harm and offence.

The Otley Burger Company has been ordered to remove the ‘offensive ad’


Samuel Port)

A spokesperson for the watchdog said images fell within the scope of their regulation because they appeared in a non-paid-for space and were directly linked to the company’s services.

The spokesperson said: “The ad contained an image of the missing child Madeleine McCann and her mother Kate McCann.

“The disappearance of Madeleine McCann had been a high-profile and long-running media story that remained widely known.

The company said it removed the advert


Samuel Port)

“We considered the images of them would be instantly recognizable to many people. We further considered that any reference to a missing child was likely to be distressing and that in the context of an ad promoting a burger company, the distress caused was unjustified.”

The wording of the ad and image of the man running away with Madeleine “further trivialized” the disappearance and “made light of a distressing news story” linked to a serious crime, he added.

The ASA spokesman continued: “We noted that the ads were all posted on March 27, 2022, which was Mother’s Day.

“We considered that in combination with the images, the posting of the ads on that date was intended to further add to the shock factor and offensive nature of the ads.

“We also considered it was likely to have compounded the distress of those who saw the ads, and particularly for those who may have experienced the disappearance of a child.

“For those reasons we concluded that the ads were likely to cause unjustified distress and serious and widespread offense.”

I added: “The ads must not appear again.

“We told The Otley Burger Company to ensure they avoided causing serious and widespread offense and distress.”

Twitter said that the company’s tweet had been removed.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said it removed the content for violating its policies. They also reviewed the company’s Instagram account, placing restrictions on it and removing more content.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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