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New McDonald's 'signs' ad draws heated reactions

A new McDonald's ad campaign is drawing controversy from critics who accuse the fast food giant from profiting from disaster.

You know the little yellow box beneath the McDonald's golden arches? Local franchise owners are allowed to put whatever they want in there, from "open" to "try our $1 menu" to community messages. A new McDonald's ad shows a montage of these signs and some of the heartfelt messages that have appeared on them.

The signs in the ad say things like "We believe in you Crystal" and "Happy 30th Ed N Beth" to more topical matters like "We remember 9/11," "Boston Strong," and "God Protect the USA." Some of the signs are damaged or under water, evoking memories of hurricanes and floods. 

In the background a children's choir sings a version of "Carry On" by the band Fun.

While some customers and advertising professionals praised McDonald's for what they say is their best advertising in years, other online critics accused the fast food chain of using tragedy to sell burgers.

Remember+when+all+those+people+died?+Here+buy+a+happy+meal!+@McDonalds

—+Steven+with+a+PH+(@stevewparkhurst)+January+12,+2015+

McDonald's+is+right.+They're+the+real+heroes.

—+Josh+Gondelman+(@joshgondelman)+January+12,+2015+


Executives from McDonald's told the AP that the ads were intended to show the company's history in local communities. While they did want to engage with customers and spark "emotion" and conversation, they said, they didn't expect this level of reaction.

The ads played this weekend during the playoffs and the Golden Globes. Advertisers are expected to use more heartwarming-themed ads during this year's Super Bowl game.

Email ben.popken@nbcuni.com or tweet @bpopken.

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