Supersize copywriting by McDonalds

Back at the tender age of 18, if you’d have told me that one day I’d be writing a blog praising McDonalds, I’d have laughed. Actually, I’d probably have cried, assuming that if this were the case, I must be destined to fail my degree and remain trapped forever in my student job on the drive-thru.

Having said that, this was by far the best part-time job I’d had. McDonalds was a breath of fresh air compared to my previous part-time jobs (ironic, considering that I never could wash out the smell of chip fat from my uniform). The company has always been renowned for an incredibly effective staff training system – one that demands fairness, respect and equality between staff members and rewards good performance. You can knock McDonalds for a lot of things – but having seen from within how the brand operates, I understand why they are such a successful business. They were on the anti-corporate bandwagon long before our friends at Innocent and Virgin; and while they have made mistakes over the years, they have never been too proud to learn from them and put things right.

Ever since they were slandered by the docu-film ‘Supersize Me’, they have fought back with true insight and guts. Most impressively and bravely, I think, in Leo Burnett’s latest round of TV ads – where some incisively observed recreations of a typical day’s custom at McDonalds are accompanied by poetic voiceover. Slightly absurd in theory, but exceptionally effective in reality. In the space of 30 seconds, they identify and endear the vast majority of their audience. The white-van guys who come in at 6am, the gherkins-removers, the dad and his kids, the hen party. Not the inventions of an ad agency, but the real experience of anyone who works at – or indeed visits – a McDonalds. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d done a lot of research with stores in order to capture the reality of their brand so accurately.

Of course, it’s always great to see a brand using copywriting to powerful effect; but to take it one step further and make the increasingly outdated art form of poetry into an effective, emotive and thoroughly modern marketing tool takes some balls. Moreover though, it’s the closeness to their target market, combined with the very real promises made by these adverts, that impresses me. The experience of visiting a McDonalds is shared by billions. And as the adverts show, it’s nothing particularly mind-blowing – but it does have behaviours, quirks and a culture all of its own: one that has worked itself firmly into the public consciousness.

Capitalising on those shared human truths is the hallmark of all the great ‘Lovebrands’. With such a huge weight of cynicism to whittle away, McDonalds may not be – or ever be -  one of those quite yet; but they’re doing a darn good job of trying.

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