Why Ireland Was So Unhappy With McDonald's Shamrock Shake Ad

Every year without fail, the Shamrock Shake returns to McDonald's and is in high demand throughout its entire seasonal availability. Despite its unwavering popularity among Americans throughout February and March leading up to the St. Patrick's Day holiday, the flavor of the milkshake isn't anything special. 

According to Vox, it only contains three ingredients: reduced-fat vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and Shamrock Shake syrup, the latter of which has a recipe that has changed three times since the shake's debut in 1970. Originally, the Shamrock Shake syrup was lemon, lime, and vanilla; then in 1973, it changed to just vanilla; and finally in 1983, it became mint and vanilla. 

Since then, the drink has remained just as beloved by fans — at least, in the United States. In Ireland, however, it's a different story.

It might seem obvious that a St. Patrick's Day-themed fast food milkshake would have nothing to do with authentic Irish culture or cuisine. But in 2017, per The Irish Post, McDonald's released an advertisement falsely marketing the menu item as authentically Irish, and it was met with substantial backlash that led McDonald's to pull the promo from circulation entirely.

McDonald's tried (and failed) to advertise the Shamrock Shake as an Irish drink

Vox reports that the Shamrock Shake is sold in McDonald's locations in Ireland every year, so it's not the shake itself that enraged Irish customers in 2017, but rather it was the content of the ad that was so upsetting. The Irish Post reports that the ad featured a kilt-wearing, red-headed man playing a Shamrock Shake as if it were bagpipes, while standing in front of Stonehenge as sheep roamed around.

Whether or not this 10-second promo was meant to be taken seriously or not, Irish customers were quick to take offense to McDonald's inaccurate representation of their country and people, citing that bagpipes and kilts are Scottish, Stonehenge is in England, and of course not everyone in Ireland has red hair. 

One Twitter user summed it up, stating, "Are the sheep Irish? Because nothing else in this picture is." In an attempt to assuage the situation, McDonald's VP Robert Gibbs publicly apologized in a statement that read, "That piece of content was not representative of McDonald's or its values and we apologize for it... Please know that McDonald's is strongly supportive of Ireland and respectful of its culture."