New tone at McD's

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McDonald's Corp. is flashing a wry smile.

The company's first spot in its 13-spot, 2002 brand advertising effort introduces an edgier tone than the lilting "We love to see you smile" strategy of last year. Instead, "Swinging Doors," scored to a tune from alternative rock band Better Than Ezra, shows a little brother getting revenge on his older brother. After getting roughed up by his larger sibling, the pint-size kid pretends to respond to his mother that he'll fetch big brother for a promised trip to the Golden Arches. He blocks the swinging kitchen door for the returning bully to slam into, then breaks into a satisfied smile. The spot closes with the "Smile" logo.

The lifestyle effort, from Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Chicago, is a major departure in tone from the besieged chain's past campaigns, which observers have criticized for being too milquetoast and conservative to be relevant to contemporary consumers, especially as the saturated burger category struggles with pressure from sandwich and fast-casual chains.

"It shows how McDonald's fits into real life in 2002," said Marlena Peleo Lazar, McDonald's chief creative officer and VP-advertising. "Not lives that were 30 years ago but lives right now."

"We tried not to be overly emotional and sentimental; we wanted to do emotion in a 2002 way," said Bob Scarpelli, DDB Worldwide chief creative officer.

McDonald's, trying to stand out in the fast-food discounting war, also has tried several value programs, with the latest a Los Angeles market test touting 20 items under a buck, supported with advertising via Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. That test will be expanded to additional markets, although same-store sales in Los Angeles through Jan. 21 fell 7%, according to a franchisee communication.

Ms. Peleo-Lazar wouldn't comment on the value program's sales results but asserts that the two efforts complement each other. "Value isn't just the price," she said. "It's all the feelings you get with this transaction, especially in this economy."

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