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 ...

1948

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

1954

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

1955

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

1956

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

1961

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.

1962

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

1963

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

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.

1967

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

1968

Big Mac, Apple Pie introduced.

1970

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.

1971

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

1973

Fred Turner named president-CEO. Quarter Pounder introduced.

1974

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

1975

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

1976

New ad theme, via Needham:

"You, you're the one."

Fred Turner named chairman, succeeding Kroc.

1977

Complete breakfast line introduced.

1979

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

1981

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

1983

Chicken McNuggets introduced.

1984

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

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

1987

Freshly tossed salads introduced. Monopoly promotion launched.

1988

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

1991

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

1992

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

1995

New ad theme, via Burnett:

"Have you had your break today?"

1996

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.

1997

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?"

1998

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

2000

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

2003

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.

2004

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

2005

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