Ad Review: McD's Cute Spots Can't Cure What's Really Ailing It

The Ads Are Fine, Even if the Marketing Department Sounds Like It's Reaching

By Published on .

Billions served to billions heard is the new guiding philosophy.
Billions served to billions heard is the new guiding philosophy.

Luckily for McDonald's, the average consumer doesn't follow marketing news very closely.

So when confronted with new ads from the fast feeder, he or she doesn't need to know that some see the company's marketing as such a hot mess that the latest round of ads came with a special bonus video from Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl. If that video was meant to soothe the worries of McD's execs and franchisees, here's hoping a checklist of trendy marketing jargon -- Engage- ment! Conversation! Listening! Transparency! Customization! -- lulled them right past the bits of philosophy like "Never best. Always better," which I'm sure Twitter would have a field day with. Long story short, McDonald's is putting "lovin''' in everything! Also, there's too much hate in the world, and who better than McDonald's to remedy that? (Answer: Plenty of people.)

But again, the consumer sees none of that. The consumer doesn't know that some execs and critics hate "I'm lovin' it" with a white-hot passion. The consumer doesn't know that the marketing (as usual) is blamed for operations' problems.

Rather, all the consumer knows is that McDonald's has a couple of new ads.

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"Archenemies" is the one that likely made certain McD's execs and franchisees nervous. No glamour shots of food. No mention of the value menu. No interior shots of the restaurant. What the hell was the marketing department thinking?!? (Maybe they're trying to speak to a different demographic without completely throwing out a serviceable tagline and recognizable sound bite. Maybe they were tired of showing idealized food and restaurants that bear no resemblance to reality.)

The spot is an illustrated music video featuring longtime adversaries -- Batman and the Joker, Freddy and Jason, Democrat and Repub- lican, Packers fans and Bears fans -- making nice. It's extremely cute. Almost too cute. And wedged between the ad itself and the "I'm lovin' it" tag is the phrase "Choose Lovin'," which sounds kinda desperate and preachy at the same time. But it's not like McDonald's could copy Chipotle and sing a song of sustainability and sourcing (not convincingly at any rate). So love it is! Lots of us love lots of things, including fast food (ask me about Popeyes), though I doubt McNuggets will ever broker a peace accord.

The Big Mac ad takes a more straightforward approach. While displaying a handsome hamburger, the voice-over pokes fun at vegetarians and foodies, promising that the Big Mac won't ever harbor quinoa or soy or kale and that McD's will never deconstruct it. It's a hamburger! Enjoy it!

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Neither ad is going to win awards or lead to a huge increase in sales. But they catch the eye. One manages to remind us what McDonald's has always been about (Big Macs) and the other provides 60 seconds of mildly charming distraction. Will they make us want to engage or converse or any of those other things? Unlikely.

But a third spot that broke over the weekend attempts an emotional bond by showing that McDonald's restaurants are often tied to local consumers and their communities. It does so by featuring the sorts of messages usually put on McDonald's signs. So maybe there is some conversation here.

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And now that I think about it, the Big Mac ad proves the company is listening to consumers. It's a refutation of the ridiculous social-media rumors saying that a health-crazed McDonald's was pulling the sandwich.

And that "Archenemies" spot did land on iSpot's "Most Engaging" chart at least once in the last week, so maybe let's cut marketing some slack and focus on what's really ailing the company.

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