McDonald's Aims to Turn 'McJob' Image on Its Ear in Recruiting Effort

Fast Feeder Launches Marketing Push to Hire 50,000 Workers While Dispelling Notion It's a Dead-End Employer

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Big Mac wants you.

Hyping what it calls National Hiring Day on April 19, McDonald's today launches an ambitious campaign to recruit a whopping 50,000 people to its already-massive workforce of 600,000. The push aims to recast McJob -- a derogatory slang for a low-paying, dead-end job -- into a desirable employment opportunity.

Rick Wion
Rick Wion

"McJob is going to enter the conversation," said Rick Wion, social-media director at McDonald's USA. "Rather than avoid the term, let's embrace it and turn it on its ear."

The company said it is looking for all types of employees, from crew members to managers to corporate employees, in anticipation of the busier summer months. Prospective employees can apply in-person at any of the company's 14,000 U.S. locations or through the McDonald's website.

The campaign will appear in print magazines such as People, Us Weekly, Ebony and various ethnic publications, on the fast feeder's social-media and digital channels, local radio spots, and as point-of-purchase, in-store marketing and on packaging on certain items.

And although the campaign is in conjunction with McDonald's National Hiring Day, much of the advertising push is dedicated to highlighting McDonald's restaurant employees in various ranks in an effort to improve the image of working at McDonald's.

"The creative part is really highlighting the people at McDonald's and dispelling the myths that there isn't opportunity working here," said Marlena Peleo-Lazar, global creative officer at McDonald's USA. "We really wanted to highlight our crew."

The McDonald's effort was created by Citizen2, a consultancy and advocacy organization in Chicago and the Washington area. The social-media effort is handled in-house, alongside the fast feeder's PR agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Golin Harris.

One medium that this campaign is not using is TV. "We found that print was the best medium to communicate the story about the brand and the opportunity people have here," said Tania Haigh, marketing manager at McDonald's USA. Video will be relegated to social media, which will include short videos of employees discussing why they love their McJobs.

While the campaign's primary goal is to recruit employees, it comes at a time when more marketers, including Pizza Hut, Overstock.com and Southwest Airlines, have put forth their own workforce as the stars of their advertising.

McDonald's last week launched an internal campaign in which it asked employees to create their own video testimonials on why they love their McJobs for possible future use in the campaign's social media effort.

While this is the first time the chain has done a hiring day on a national level, the company's Western division held a hiring event last spring, and in the process employed about 13,000 people.

McDonald's is competing in an improving labor market where existing and potential McDonald's employees have opportunities to pursue jobs at other companies with higher pay. The U.S. economy has added jobs for 13 consecutive months; the unemployment rate (8.8%) is at a two-year low, according to an Ad Age DataCenter analysis of data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

McDonald's campaign could give the company an advantage over competitors by making a potential pool of candidates think of McDonald's first. It could also generate goodwill among customers who like the idea of seeing a company bring jobs into a community.

According to the fast-feeder, more than 50% of McDonald's franchisees and 75% of restaurant managers started as crew employees. Among long-term McDonald's employees is McDonald's USA President Jan Fields, who started by making fries at a restaurant.

For the national hiring event, McDonald's drew on research extrapolated from company-owned restaurants and compiled by Dennis Tootelian, who studies business trends and policy at the Center for Small Business at California State University, Sacramento. Mr. Tootelian estimates McDonald's and its franchisees will lay out at least $518 million more in wages and salaries during 2011 than the prior year -- an average of more than $1.4 million every day.

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