Shane Bazzi, a refugee advocate from Sydney, Australia, tweeted at McDonald’s multiple times last year to complain about the lack of vegetarian and vegan options.
“Why are you neglecting this market?” he wrote in a tweet to the fast food giant’s Australian account, @maccas, on Jan. 3, 2019.
“Maccas still has nothing for vegetarians and vegans though which is pretty shitty,” he added on August 3.
So naturally, Bazzi was chuffed when he heard the company had finally announced a plant-based burger in January 2020.
Soon after, his boyfriend messaged him with a screenshot of a sponsored Instagram story advertising the new veggie burger.
It contained a picture of the burger, overlaid with a tweet from “Shane B” which says “One day I’ll bite into a @maccas veggie burger. One day…”
But Bazzi had never tweeted this.
“My boyfriend saw my name and photo used in the tweet, and he knows I’ve been contacting Maccas to get a veggie option,” Bazzi told BuzzFeed News. “He said ‘check it out’, and I took a look and said ‘I never actually said that.'”
The name, “Shane B”, was clearly a shortened version of Bazzi’s name, and the photo is a blurred version of his previous profile picture.
And while Bazzi had indeed been vocal on Twitter about the veggie burger, the tweet on the McDonald’s Instagram story was much less critical than anything he had posted.
The tweet itself appears to be a mock-up, with minor stylistic differences from a regular tweet including the lack of a @username, or a source label such as Twitter Web App or Tweetdeck.
Bazzi is pissed off that McDonald’s attached his name and picture to a message he didn’t write.
“I found it quite cringey and weird to be honest. I was disappointed to have my words twisted and used…” he said. “For them to make money from my name, image and Twitter account.”
He wrote on Twitter: “this is bizarre. I’ve just discovered @maccas is using my name and photo to advertise their new veggie burger on their Instagram however I never tweeted that. They just made it up!”
One user responded: “Why not just mock up a completely fake profile?”
McDonald’s confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the company’s ads use fake tweets that were “inspired” by real posts.
“We took inspiration from a handful of tweets. We blurred photos and did not use full names or direct quotes of any of the users who inspired this campaign” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
Bazzi is not thrilled by the company’s response.
“Wow… I inspired the campaign? OK, yeah that’s bullshit. They should have contacted me before doing that and got permission. Since my boyfriend found out about it, I’ve been reaching out via Twitter and McDonald’s and I haven’t gotten a response,” Bazzi said.
“It’s so bizarre for McDonalds, a massive multinational operation that makes billions of dollars, to do this. There’s been no acknowledgement or apology. They’re still defending.”
Despite all this, Bazzi has tried the vegetarian burger that he had been asking for.
“It was ok,” he said. “Prefer the Hungry Jacks rebel whopper though.”
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.