The promotion for McDonald’s was screened on Winfrey’s Aussie Countdown special, which was watched by an estimated 10 million American viewers including the 300 guests who have been invited to join Winfrey on her nine-day whistle-stop tour Down Under, which starts this week.
In the “crash course on Australian lingo and culture”, local presenter Carrie Bickmore delivered a guide to modern life Down Under, complete with shots of Bondi Beach, men in “budgie smugglers” and the Sydney Opera House.
After a revealing that Australians call men “blokes” and women “sheilas” but don’t use the term “g’day” very often – “just say hi” – Bickmore neatly segued into the McDonald’s plug.
“While there are a lot of differences, there is one comforting similarity,” she told American viewers. “While you have your diners, we have McCafes. Guys come for business meetings, girls come for a catch-up over coffee. It’s all just a little bit fancy.
“In Australia, McDonald’s are called Maccas,” she goes on.
“They’re hip hang-outs where people sip gourmet coffees in the McCafes and dine from a menu exclusive to Australia.”
The suggestion that Australians gather and socialise in McDonald’s has hit a nerve in the country. Australia has a thriving coffee culture, thanks to its Italian and Greek migrants, in which chains are shunned in favour of independent cafés.
The Australian media instantly condemned the piece as “absurd”.
“There I was, about to buy a rack of spring lamb for dinner, and a beautiful fresh tray of Bowen mangoes for the fruit bowl, when bing! I remembered that in fact, what I actually craved, on a deeply-ingrained cultural level, was in fact that most Australian of treats, the American Choc Brownie Slice,” wrote Anthony Sharwood, deputy editor of comment website The Punch.
“As Oprah has reminded us in her timely pre-Christmas message, McCafe is where the true blue come to affirm our Australianness.”
Bickmore herself has also come in for strong criticism. Following the release of the video, her Wikipedia page was altered to read: “More recently she has been known as a McDonald’s sell-out tramp and her viewer appeal has mysteriously fallen through the floor.” The comment was later taken down.
The uproar over the McDonald’s advertisement threatens to overshadow the first days of Winfrey’s visit to Australia, which starts on Tuesday and will include two shows at the Sydney Opera House and another one at an undisclosed location in the outback.
It will be the first time that The Oprah Winfrey Show has been recorded outside America and is considered a coup for Tourism Australia. Before Winfrey even touched down, the trip was estimated to be worth $17m (£10m) in tourism revenue – Telegraph