McDonald's Ads Are Embarrassing, Pandering Mess

By Published on .

Client: McDonald's
Agency: Heye & Partner, Munich, Germany
Star Rating: 1

If 50 cent were kidnapped by the New Christy Minstrels, and forced to record a video soundtrack commissioned by Mentos, you'd have the introduction to the new McDonald's campaign.

A typical mohawked dad ruffles his son's mohawked head as they join in loving' it together on the new McDonald's commercial.
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Fake hip-hopitude
What a bizarre agglomeration of fake hip-hopitude, Pollyana depictions of young people, jumpy editing, insipid philosophy and an extremely dubious selling proposition.

"I'm lovin' it," the tagline says, as voiced by former 'N Sync heartthrob Justin Timberlake ... again and again and again.

I'm lovin' it.
Is this the place to eat? Since I don't cook, I'll just rock to the beat.
I'm lovin' it.
At the end of the day, to relieve the stress, we add a little play.
I'm lovin' it.
Sometimes we have mishaps. You just overcome it, adapt to setbacks.
I'm lovin' it. I'm lovin' it.

Cognitive dissonance
OK, Justin, OK. But where do those ghetto pronunciations come from? We don't remember hearing those when you were on the Mickey Mouse Club. It's like ... whoa! ... outa Sync! We realize that his transformation to solo act has been a reverse Michael Jackson, but it still grates with cognitive dissonance. It all does.

You've got your Justin X; you've got your MTV images driven by lyrics with the anarchic sensibility of a health-class filmstrip; you've got your extreme-smilin' young actors having extreme fun flippin' the bird to the Man -- you know, like by stylin' down Main Street in a sports car ... hooked to a towtruck! My God in heaven, the wicked irony! This is beyond Mentos. This is Bazooka Joe material.

So what we're saying is: what an embarrassing, pandering mess.

Key word: desperate
We know McDonald's is desperate to win back young people. Key word: desperate. Pitifully, painfully desperate, as revealed by every frame of this horror show collaboration between Oak Brook, Ill., and Heye & Partner, Munich, Germany, the two Clueless Old White People capitals of the world. Even if this false front were to fool the core audience -- which it will not -- it will surely be off-putting, if not alienating, if not totally disenfranchising to the Great Everyone Else, who make up a good part of McDonald's business worldwide.

As to the tagline, well, really, where does one begin?

Who's doing the lovin'?
First, it violates several key principles of taglineation, starting with being confusing. Typically, sloganeering attempts to espouse some sort of third-person corporate or brand values, or second-person call to action. The use of the first person will raise the question of who's supposed to be doing the talking.

It'll also raise some hackles at the inherent presumptuousness of the proposition -- as in, "I'm lovin it? Oh, really? I think I'll be the judge of that."

The second problem is that the phrase owes what little edge it has to the rave scene of the '90s -- which is to say, the drug scene. Does McDonald's want to evoke images of sloppy, X-addled club rats? Answer: No.

The absurdity backlash
The biggest risk, though, is the absurdity backlash. McDonald's has its appeal. It's often yummy, in a revolting, mushy, instant-gratification sort of way. It can even be, at certain moments, just the right thing. But worthy of love? As this brand no doubt discovered by ignoring AdReview and going ahead with its patently silly "We love to see you smile" tagline, it is insane to have your audience snorting in unison at your central selling proposition.

On the other hand, this is advertising we're speaking of, not logic. A little irritation, like a sand grain in an oyster, can sometimes yield a pearl. "I'm Lovin' It" might be just disconcerting enough to cut through and grab hold. Notwithstanding all of the rational arguments against it, with a billion dollars or so of media weight it will likely claw its way into the consumer psyche.

And the vernacular. And maybe even the annals. Not because it's clever, but because it's so memorably unclever. Which, like too many Big Macs, would be hard to stomach.

Because, speaking strictly for ourselves, we're hatin' it.

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