McDonald's Lays Out New Brand Vision, Reaffirms Commitment to 'I'm Lovin' It'

Ads From Leo Burnett Will 'Reinvigorate' Tagline by Featuring More Positivity

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McDonald's on Friday described an updated approach to marketing its brand, but the long-running "I'm lovin' it" tagline isn't going anywhere.

The chain is instead "reigniting" the "I'm lovin' it" theme "by introducing a new platform that puts more focus on lovin'," said the company in a statement. The messaging will focus more on positivity "with more uplifting content and conversations in the lovin' spirit.

Ad Age first reported the brand campaign after Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett won a pitch for ideas to refresh the brand. "I'm lovin' it" was not expected to be jettisoned, but rather to be evolved.

"This new focus will inspire everything we do moving forward, from advertising and marketing to how we interact with customers in restaurants and on social media," the company said.

National TV and digital ads starting Jan. 3 were created by Leo Burnett with support by partnering agencies, the company said. Other agencies on the McDonald's roster include Omnicom's DDB, Alma DDB for Hispanic marketing, Burrell for African-American marketing and OMD for media.

U.S. CMO Deborah Wahl, who joined the company in early 2014, said in a video about the brand refresh that the company will move from a philosophy of "billions served" -- a line featured on the chains' marquees -- to "billions heard." On various social media platforms, McDonald's will continue to actively listen to customer feedback and keep the lines of communication open, as in its recent "Our food. Your questions" campaign, she said.

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The central spot introducing the new vision is an animated ad called "Arch enemies." In it the company illustrates its renewed focus on "lovin'" by showing characters that have long been enemies -- the Smurfs and their antagonist Gargamel, Batman and the Joker, a Chicago Bears fan and a Green Bay Packers fan, Freddy from "Nightmare on Elm Street" and Jason Voorhees from "Friday the 13th," and so on -- with each encounter ending happily.

Then comes the phrase "Choose Lovin'" before the commercial ends with "I'm lovin' it."

The company said other changes in 2015 will include new uniforms on crew members, as well as new packaging and signs in restaurants.

The move comes as the chain has been taking a beating, with decreased sales and increased competition from fast casual restaurants and competitors like Wendy's. McDonald's sales in November were down 4.6%, the weakest in the U.S. in more than a decade. Globally, its same-store sales for the month were down 2.2%. For the third quarter, both U.S. and global same-store sales were down 3.3%.

In particular, McDonald's has been less popular with Millennials than other brands are, and the chain has been working to appeal to the cohort through transparency and quality-assurance initiatives.

Ms. Wahl also said in the video that the chain will feature classics like the Big Mac in more of its marketing -- such as a new TV commercial that unapologetically warns vegetarians to look away. She also took the opportunity to tout the chain's new customizable "Create your taste" platform, which will be rolled out in 2,000 U.S. locations in 2015. She noted that the company recently began offering Cuties mini oranges in its Happy Meals, adding that McDonald's will market its Egg McMuffins in a way that illustrates that each sandwich is made with an egg that was freshly cracked.

The company is also expected to run an in-game Super Bowl spot, but the company declined to comment on that score.

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