McD's serves up its Olympic pride

By Published on .

Advertiser: McDonald's Corp.
Agency: Leo Burnett USA, Chicago
Ad Review rating: 4 stars

The Olympic Games are just around the corner. Prepare for the thrills. Prepare for the drama. Prepare for the nausea.

More stomach turning will be generated by the next two months of advertising than a whole year of those real-life brain surgeries they show on cable. Furthermore, reflecting the relative value the society places on human life and, say, light beer, the brain surgeries are cheaper.

For this we can credit both the generalized euphoria that overtakes the public on the advent of the Summer Games, and, of course, those "proud sponsors of" and "proud official suppliers to" the Olympic Games, who will be relentless in telling us of their generous corporate support.

Now, we here at Ad Review are the first to admit that our own sensibilities do not always translate to the public at large. For instance, we recognize that there are more people who are amused by the Taster's Choice couple than there are like us, who hope both of them acquire a minor, blistering, sexually transmitted disease.

We further acknowledge that many people will buy any product that advertises with cute little animals, and that Eastern Airlines would be in business today if its commercials had featured a litter of puppies scooting down the aisle of a 727.

Above all we understand that a connection with the Olympic Games--no matter how contrived, incongruous or nakedly mercenary--has a hard value to the marketer at the cash register. We have noted the latest Gallup & Robinson survey, which reveals that 66% of consumers believe Olympic sponsorship is a patriotic act.

We understand this, yet we regard it as one of the great mysteries of life, right up there with the appeal of Julia Roberts.

So we are always surprised and delighted when someone produces an Olympic-theme ad that does not wallow in false pride and cheap sentiment.

And Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, has given us one.

It's a 30-second spot, set in a McDonald's. As a teen-age employee fills an order for a soft-ice-cream cone, and as the frozen dessert swirls atop the cone, he does a double take. The cone, it appears, reminds him of something. Suddenly we hear the pulse of the timpani, and then the unmistakable strain of the Olympic anthem.

The kid does a military about-face, thrusts the cone toward the heavens and marches with sober dignity, toward the counter.

He is bearing not a frosty dairy treat but the Olympic torch, and bearing it with majesty and hyperbolic pride.

"McDonald's," the voice-over says. "Really, really proud sponsors of the Olympic Games."

It is all very funny, and very endearing, because he is not mocking the pomp, pageantry and emotion of the Olympics, he's just caught up in it.

And McDonald's--an official worldwide sponsor--isn't mocking anything either. They've simply found a playful way of remarking on how the Olympic spirit touches us all.

To their everlasting credit, they've done it without the cloying sentimentality that makes so much Olympic advertising so phony and sickening.

Alas, before long the other proud sponsors--and probably McDonald's itself--will give us plenty of that. Scripture tells us that pride goeth before the fall. Yep, before the fall, and all summer long.

Copyright July 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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