Piccadilly Circus. It is one of the best known landmarks in the world, and its illuminated advertising sites are some of the most expensive promotional real estate on the planet. And for the first time, an organisation is now using this iconic location to promote itself as a good employer.
Today, McDonald's lit up the London skyline with an advertisement announcing that the benefits and opportunities of working for the company are "not bad for a McJob".
The statement comes as a new academic study is published suggesting that working at McDonald's has a positive impact on the development of young people in terms of their skills, personal growth and career opportunities.
Brighter Futures, an independent study of 475 people including young McDonald's employees, their working friends, parents, managers, and teachers, was conducted by Adrian Furnham, Professor of Psychology at University College London.
Professor Furnham's study reveals that nine out of 10 parents studied believe that working at McDonald's is good for their children. Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) also said that they had seen positive changes in their child since they started the job, ranging from improved communication skills to increased confidence. Feedback from their friends echoed this.
David Fairhurst, Vice President, People, McDonald's commented: "We've known for years that the jobs we offer are good for young people. But if we'd run an campaign saying this on arguably the world's most iconic advertising site before today, people would have quite rightly said 'prove it'".
"With the launch of Professor Furnham's Brighter Futures report, we now have that proof. Our people say it. Their friends say it. And their parents say it – our jobs transform young people in a positive way. And that's not bad for a McJob." Professor Furnham said that the study confronted many of the assumptions about work in the service and hospitality sector, and McDonald's in particular.
"The evidence indicates that jobs in the service and hospitality sector have a positive impact upon young people," he said.
"Furthermore, parents in particular note a growth in confidence and other valuable 'softer' people skills. These factors mean that McDonald's staff and their parents see value and potential in long-term service and hospitality sector careers."
Professor Furnham's study also reveals that nine out of 10 young McDonald's employees show high levels of engagement in their jobs - a dramatic contrast to the low levels of engagement recorded in a raft of research in the UK and elsewhere.
For example, a November 2005 survey by Watson Wyatt found that only 12 per cent of employees in the UK could be described as 'fully engaged', while a Gallup poll suggested that 19 per cent of Britons were 'engaged', 61 per cent 'not engaged', and 20 per cent 'actively disengaged'.
Former McDonald's employee and Labour MP Ian Austin welcomed Professor Furnham's study.
"It is about time the myth of the 'McJob' label was challenged," he said. "Having begun my working life at McDonald's in Dudley High Street, I can vouch for the fact that customer service sector work like this is categorically not the dead end job it is made out to be. In fact, I learnt things then that have helped me throughout my working life.
"This sort of work can give young people transferable and increasingly valuable skills, as well as the confidence to make something of themselves. It gives many young people flexible employment that fits in with their studies as it did for me. The opportunities available are much more than McJobs."