Eight Questions for DDB's New Top Creative on McDonald's

Tony Malcolm on Why He Took the U.S. Job and Whether 'I'm Lovin' It' Is Getting Stale

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Tony Malcolm last week was named exec creative director on DDB Chicago's McDonald's account. He will lead the U.S. portion of DDB's McDonald's work and oversee a team of 30 creatives.

Mr. Malcolm has strong ties to the Golden Arches. He comes to DDB after eight years at Leo Burnett's U.K. office, where he oversaw creative for McDonald's U.K. work.

Tony Malcolm
Tony Malcolm

Ad Age caught up with Mr. Malcolm to talk about why he moved to the U.S., what his plans are for the McDonald's brand, and whether he thinks "I'm lovin' it" has mileage left after more than 11 years as the chain's global advertising tagline.

Why did you leave the U.K. to work at DDB in the U.S.?
I do love working on McDonald's, it was my favorite client in the U.K….But I had ambition to to work in a bigger context for McDonald's, and there's no bigger stage than here, particularly at DDB. I knew that the job was available and I pushed for it. When I met Paul [Gunning, DDB Chicago's CEO], we learned we were aligned and kindred spirits. It was the right fit.

In terms of creative strategy, how does McDonald's in the U.S. differ from the U.K.?
I don't think there's a huge amount of difference. I think there are more product innovations in the States, but strategically, I think we've got very similar audiences...though I think we've got a bigger audience here, of course. And in the U.K., it was a wasn't quite as diverse as it is here. Perceptions in the U.K. towards McDonald's are similar to what they are here: it's the people's restaurant….But it's not as though I'm starting from scratch. I feel I've got a very good idea of what we need to achieve. And reignite that love of McDonald's, which was done very successfully in the U.K.

What do you need to achieve here?
We've got really good talent here in the DDB office. I want to be there for them and be able to give them my experience and help guide them. We can be better, and Paul [Gunning] hired me because he wants to just be better. There's no real problem, apart form there's more we can be doing to make our creative better.

How can we expect DDB's creative output for McDonald's to change now that you're overseeing it?
I am a great believer in quality, and we need to make sure the quality is sustained, and if need be, we can push it further. We need to look for innovative ways to reach our audience. The whole fragmentation of the media landscape means there's so many more ways to reach out to our audience.

So does that mean more of a digital and mobile push?
I don't think it's about looking to change, but there are new and different media openings all the time. We've got to ensure we're there.

McDonald's is facing increasing competition in the U.S. and is working to stave off a sales decline. What are your plans creatively to help make that happen?
Creatively, we carry on doing the same things. We need to ensure we're carrying on doing the same things, connecting with our audience and looking at insights and making sure those are strong.

McDonald's has been using its well-known tagline "I'm lovin' it" globally for more than a decade. Do you think it's lost its effectiveness and needs to be replaced?
I've been working with "I'm lovin' it" for eight years. And it's like any tagline...you come to live with it and it stands for what your whole corporate identity is. I think it's still valid today, people are still loving it. If there comes a time when it needs to change, then we'll look at it, but I think it's still strong and relevant and I'm not looking to do anything at the moment.

Do you see I'm "lovin' it" as resonating differently in the U.K. versus the U.S.?
The cohesion of that line crosses borders -- wherever it runs, people recognize it. It's not a local line, so to speak. It's got that global resonance, and people accept it. It's totally in line with what people believe about McDonald's.

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