The ‘Dad’ advert, showing a boy talking with his mum about his late father while sitting in one of the fast food chain’s restaurants, received criticism on social media calling it “cynical and exploitative”.
Bereavement charity Grief Encounter said it had received “countless calls” from parents of bereaved children saying it had caused them upset.
A McDonald’s spokeswoman said in a statement, according to PA: “We can confirm today that we have taken the decision to withdraw our ‘Dad’ TV advert.
“The advert will be removed from all media, including TV and cinema, completely and permanently this week. It was never our intention to cause any upset.”
The statement continued: “We are particularly sorry that the advert may have disappointed those people who are most important to us, our customers.
“Due to the lead-times required by some broadcasters, the last advert will air on Wednesday 17 May.
“We will also review our creative process to ensure this situation never occurs again.”
The advert featured a conversation between the boy and his mother, which begins with him wondering what he had in common with his father.
He is then shown sitting in a McDonald’s restaurant with his mum, where she reveals that they shared a love of the same burger, a Filet-o-Fish. She tells her son: “That was your dad’s favourite too.”
The campaign, from London-based advertising agency Leo Burnett, had been scheduled to run for seven weeks.
Dr Shelley Gilbert, founder and president of Grief Encounter, said: “McDonald’s has attempted to speak to their audience via an emotionally-driven TV campaign.
“However, what they have done is exploit childhood bereavement as a way to connect with young people and surviving parents alike, unsuccessfully.
“We fully support children and surviving parents remembering loved ones with memory boxes, family experiences which remind them of happier times and openly talking about the member of the family that has died.
“But trying to insinuate that a brand can cure all ills with one meal is insensitive and shouldn’t be a way to show that a brand recognises ‘the big moments in life’.”
However, writer Tim Teeman believes the advert shouldn’t have been pulled.
Teeman, who experienced the death of a parent when he was a child, wrote on The Daily Beast: “If advertisers use sex, body shape, desire, beauty, hunger, thirst, nature, the environment, fashion, and all manner of seductive imagery to sell us things, why shouldn’t they use grief?
“Losing a parent is a horrible thing, and not to be trivialised, but to try and evoke a story around that to sell something seems much braver and more innovative than selling a deodorant with a sculpted pair of abs.
“The real question is, why do we insist on fencing grief and death off so much when it is so common to us all?”
Read his full article on The Daily Beast here.