McDonald's Frank Lesson in Food Styling Proves Viral Hit

Radical Transparency Pays Off for Fast Feeder

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We've all wondered it at some point: Why does my burger look so different, so sad and colorless, compared with the burger that I saw in that ad?

Hope Bagozzi, director of marketing at McDonald's Canada, was posed the same question by a consumer and answers it by taking viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of how a McDonald's ad is made. The end result is the video "Our Food. Your Questions," which debuted at No. 2 on the Viral Video Chart, with 5 million views.

While viewers are briefly shown the photo-editing process, Ms. Bagozzi spends extra time illustrating how a food stylist painstakingly browns the burger's edges and places each piece of cheese, pickle and onion before strategically injecting the sandwich with ketchup and mustard. Compared with the Big Mac you are served in minutes at your local store, this process takes hours and seems to explain why the burger looks so much better in advertisements.

It is a more transparent response to the question than one might expect from a fast-food chain. But it's a smart approach that seems to resonate with online audiences, unlike some of McDonald's other attempts at viral and social marketing.

In January, the brand had a major Twitter fail when its hashtag #McDStories inspired a stream of McDonald's horror stories and in March it was mocked when it attempted to create a Twitter meme it dubbed "shamrocking." Things weren't helped when videos of pink slime, once used McDonald's burgers and Chicken McNuggets, started circulating the internet.

The video, in that context, seems like an effort by McDonald's to take control of its brand image online, to expose the inner workings of the company instead of letting someone else do it. Whether or not it will wash out the image of that pink slime, it has generated a lot of buzz for the brand. We posted the video on Ad Age last week and it became one of our most popular stories of the week.

This is the second video from McDonald's Canada to make its way around the web in the past few weeks. The commercial, which has yet to make the Viral Video Chart, features a man traveling around the world and discovering the universality of the word McDonald's.

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