McDonald's New TV Ads Make It a Battle of the Plastic Icons

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CHICAGO ( -- Not to be outdone by the popularity of Burger King’s plastic royal personage, McDonald Corp. is hoping to get some marketing mileage out of its own clown prince, Ronald McDonald.
Ronald McDonald statues can be found in the chain's restaurants around the world.

The Golden Arches’ new branding spots show how people interact with the life-size Ronald McDonald statues typically found in the restaurants. Created by Omnicom Group’s TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., the commercials aim to “share how our customers relate to the world’s most famous clown and the bond they have with our brand,” said a McDonald’s spokesman. “They are reminiscent of the McDonald’s spots of years ago that tug at your heartstrings.”

Big-event programs
The spokesman said the effort continues the “I’m Lovin’ It” theme and jingle. The series marks the first branding work created by TBWA in the U.S., a duty previously handled by roster shops DDB, Chicago, an Omnicom sibling, and Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett, Chicago. As many as 10 spots will air on “event” media programming including the Olympic Games and the Oscars, according to media industry executives, although the fast-food chain wouldn’t confirm media plans or how many spots were created.

For years, McDonald’s has searched for ways to make its originally kid-focused funnyman relevant to adults. While it may have been among the first marketers to create the ceramic statues, McDonald’s is the latest to try to tap people’s fascination with them. Burger King’s advertising featuring its majestic mascot has helped make the brand hip again, and earlier this year PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats began featuring in commercials a statue of its famed Quaker to sell oatmeal. (Perhaps not so ironically, McDonald’s new chief marketing officer, Mary Dillon, joined the Golden Arches from Quaker Oats.)

Not always dignified
McDonald’s iconic clown sculptures haven’t always been given a lot of love and have in fact over the years suffered a host of indignities, from kidnapping to burning and even hanging and dismembering. In the final days of 2005, a former McDonald’s employee living in Lincoln, Neb., discovered her 8-foot-tall Ronald statue, one of 3,000 such statues made 25 years ago, stolen from her front yard, a piece that made the local news.

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