McD's New Effort to Instill Employee Pride: It's Not a McJob

Spot Extols Virtues of Burger Flipping as Path to Corporate Management

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Hoping to redefine the "McJob" as the first step on a career path instead of a dead end, McDonald's Corp. yesterday broke a TV spot that showcases the corporate management careers possible at the fast-food giant.
Karen King appears in McDonald's new spot. Ms. King joined the chain 30 years ago in Lawrenceville, Ga., and today manages some 5,000 restaurants.
Karen King appears in McDonald's new spot. Ms. King joined the chain 30 years ago in Lawrenceville, Ga., and today manages some 5,000 restaurants.

This latest effort in an employee-pride campaign that began in 2005 to redefine what working at the fast-food chain represents tells the career story of McDonald's USA's East division president, Karen King. The executive joined the chain 30 years ago in Lawrenceville, Ga., and today manages some 5,000 restaurants, comprising 36% -- $10 billion -- of revenue for the domestic system.

'Limitless opportunity'
"If you have the will, drive and dedication, there is limitless opportunity to make a career under the arches," Ms. King said in a statement announcing the spot. McDonald's said 30% of franchisees, 50% of corporate staff and 70% of restaurant managers began as crew. Of the top management -- including CEO Jim Skinner -- 40% started behind the counter.

"This campaign underscores the intense pride that we feel for our employees at all levels throughout the organization," said Bill Lamar, chief marketing officer for McDonald's USA. "Karen's story is just one example of many. We are proud of the opportunity that we offer at McDonald's and of those employees that strive for excellence every day they're on the job."

Hispanic advertising features Ofelia Melenerz, VP-greater Southwest region, who began as an intern after graduating from college.

The campaign, created by Omnicom Group's DDB, Chicago, includes a new career website and banner ads that profile four other workers, ranging from crew member to restaurant manager.

Fighting the McJobs stigma
McDonald's has fought the McJob stigma since 1986, when sociologist Amitai Etzioni wrote a story in The Washington Post, headlined "McJobs Are Bad for Kids," that outlined the ills of low-paying, robotic and mindless fast-food positions. In 2003, Jim Cantalupo, the chain's then chairman-CEO, took umbrage when the McJob term was added to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and wrote an open letter to the publisher.

While the term "McJob" was coined in 1984 by McDonald's as part of a training program for handicapped prospects, it is often credited to Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel "Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture."

At its recent global marketing conference, McDonald's highlighted as a success story a U.K. advertising campaign from last year that attempted to portray working at McDonald's in a positive light behind the tagline "Not bad for a McJob." In one iteration, "McProspects?" was the headline over a sign for the board room.

The ads, citing research from Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College London, were displayed on giant billboards in Picadilly Circus. Omnicom's TBWA, London, handled that campaign.

New book
In January, a management professor at the University of Buffalo School of Management released "My Secret Life on the McJob: Lessons from Behind the Counter Guaranteed to Supersize Any Management Style." The professor worked undercover as a burger jockey at seven Burger King, Wendy's, Arby's, Krystal and McDonald's restaurants. He concluded: "In spite of the high turnover and repetitive tasks, the workers consistently produce, aren't afraid of hard work and thrive under pressure," according to the press release announcing the book.
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