McDonald's Timeline

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McDonald's has come a long way from a purveyor of 15¢ hamburgers to a multinational marketer whose annual revenue exceeds the gross domestic product of Belarus, the 100th country to be blessed with a McDonald's restaurant. From San Bernardino to Beijing, here's how the premier fast-feeder has evolved over the last half-century ...


Dick and Mac McDonald open first McDonald's in San Bernardino, Calif. Logo is "Speedee" the hamburger man.


Multimixer salesman Ray A. Kroc visits the San Bernardino McDonald's, his curiosity aroused by the large number of milkshake machines they're buying.


Kroc on April 15 opens his first McDonald's in Des Plaines, Ill. First McDonald's ad runs.


Kroc hires Fred Turner as grillman. Turner will go on to become CEO of McDonald's.


Kroc buys out McDonald brothers for $2.7 million. The Golden Arches replace Speedee as logo with 1st ad theme "Look for the Golden Arches," via the Shrout Agency, Morton Grove, Ill.


First national print ad in Oct. 5 issue of Life. New ad theme of "Go for goodness at McDonald's," via Admart, Chicago.


Ronald McDonald makes TV debut in Washington. Filet-O-Fish sandwich created by franchisee; added to national menu in 1965.


McDonald's hires D'Arcy Advertising, Chicago, for national advertising account. New ad theme: "McDonald's-Where quality starts fresh every day."

Ronald McDonald makes his first appearance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. As part of deal with NBC, Ronald appears in McDonald's first network TV commercial.


McDonald's expands beyond U.S. with restaurants opening in Canada and Puerto Rico. Operator National Advertising Council is formed.


Big Mac, Apple Pie introduced.


Christmas gift certificates introduced. McDonaldland becomes setting for kids commercials. McDonald's moves $7 million national advertising account to Needham, Harper & Steers, Chicago, from D'Arcy.


New ad theme, via Needham: "You deserve a break today." McDonaldland characters join Ronald McDonald.


Fred Turner named president-CEO. Quarter Pounder introduced.


"Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettuce cheesepicklesonionson asesameeseedbun" promotion introduces ad jingle, via Needham, for Big Mac. First Ronald McDonald House opens.


New ad theme, via Needham: "We do it all for you." Egg McMuffin introduced. First drive-thru opens in Sierra Vista, Ariz.


New ad theme, via Needham:

"You, you're the one."

Fred Turner named chairman, succeeding Kroc.


Complete breakfast line introduced.


New ad theme, via Needham: "Nobody can do it like McDonald's can." Happy Meals introduced.


McDonald's renews "You deserve a break today." Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, takes over as national agency.


Chicken McNuggets introduced.


Ray Kroc dies Jan. 14. New ad theme, via Burnett:

"It's a good time for the great taste of McDonald's."


Freshly tossed salads introduced. Monopoly promotion launched.


McDonald's goes after dinner sales with "Mac Tonight" effort via regional agency Davis, Ball & Colombatto, Los Angeles.


New ad theme, via Burnett: "You know the one, McDonald's, for food, folks and fun." McLean Deluxe introduced.


New ad theme, via Burnett: "What you want is what you get at McDonald's today." Largest store to date opens in Beijing.


New ad theme, via Burnett:

"Have you had your break today?"


Arch Deluxe, then the biggest new-product launch in the chain's history and supported by adult campaign from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, flops. McDonald's signs 10-year exclusive promotional deal with Disney encompassing film, TV, radio and theme parks.


In Arch Deluxe about-face, management slashes prices with Campaign 55, repricing Big Mac and other items. This prompts the Burger War. Franchisee revolt ensues. "My McDonald's" campaign from Burnett flops, prompting agency shoot-out. Burnett loses adult branding work to DDB Needham. New ad theme: "Did somebody say McDonald's?"


Drops adult line; announces new "Made for You" kitchens to allow custom orders.


McSalad Shaker salads introduced. New ad theme, via DDB: "We love to see you smile."


McDonald's posts its first-ever quarterly earnings loss. "Plan to Win" revitalization plan launched. McDonald's Premium Salads, McGriddles introduced. First global campaign ("I'm lovin' it") debuts from Heye & Partner.


Go Active! Happy Meal for adults, Chicken Selects introduced.


McDonald's celebrates 50th anniversary of first Kroc franchise.