In a normal year, McDonald’s, like other fast feeders, would churn out work to take the brand from one promotion to the next in a set cadence. But 2020 was not a normal year, and the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest pushed the leading restaurant chain further away from its tried-and-true—and frankly, tired—marketing tactics. The result is bolder and fresher marketing and a fan-focused brand voice.
Even before COVID-19 hit the U.S., McDonald’s was pressing the reset button on its marketing. Last year, it selected as lead U.S. creative agency the New York office of Wieden+Kennedy—whose out-of-the-bucket thinking from Portland gave KFC cultural cred—after the Golden Arches’ bespoke Omnicom Group agency, We Are Unlimited, failed to spark stellar growth
“We were longing for great creative to help unlock this brand,” says McDonald’s U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Morgan Flatley, who joined the chain in 2017. And it’s starting to pay off this year as the brand sharpens its voice, reconnects with lapsed fans and brings in new ones. Its recent string of campaigns, from tasty close-ups of a Quarter Pounder to a series of celebrity-driven orders, is making McDonald’s a creative force to be recognized after years of being overshadowed in marketing by Burger King.
McDonald’s kicked off the year with “It’s Perfect Made Perfecter,” its first campaign from Wieden+Kennedy. The spots zoom in on the Quarter Pounder with Cheese and fries, but it’s how they are described, in a voiceover by actor Brian Cox, that set them apart from standard so-called “food porn” ads. A series of spots debuted during the Grammy Awards broadcast on Jan. 26 and immediately drew notice. “In the minutes since I heard the Brian Cox ASMR [in] a Mickey D’s commercial, I’ve found a new lease on life,” Brady Langmann wrote for Esquire. “Life can give me the occasional gift. Life can surprise me.”