There’s a new McDonalds ad that kind of weirds me out. Sadly I haven’t located the video online – post a link in the comments if you can find it.
Anyway, this is the latest in their campaign based on the idea that the food items on the dollar menu sit around all day having meetings that revolve around who is eligible for membership in the dollar menu. Generally these ads are stupid, but inoffensive. The new one, well… here’s a rough transcript.
6-piece chicken nuggets [thick texas drawl]: Ah can’t buh-leeve we’re ruh-layted.
Chicken sandwich [Speedy Gonzalez-level Mexican accent]: Third cousins on my mother’s siiiiide! It’s too bad chu can only stay for a few weeeeeks.
Fruit Parfait [Pepe le Pew-level French accent]: You know, I also ‘ave a relative on ze dollair menu.
Small French Fries [no discernable accent – thus, the Voice Of America]: Uh, no. Look, I’ve told you before, the fact that the word French is in my name, does NOT make me french.
And that’s the whole thing. What’s going on here? Certainly I don’t think that the items are supposed to seem more appetizing because they’re vaguely ‘ethnic’ (or in Fries’ case, because he’s a whiney bitch). The only reason they would be airing this ad is that they think the audience will find it funny, and thus associate McDonalds with laughter and cleverness rather than with morbid obesity and recombinant growth hormone. But there’s no jokes in the ad, unless you count the exceedingly weak pun on the “French” in french fries. So where’s the humor? Well, it’s not funny, because it’s not a good ad. But it’s not too hard to figure out where the intended humor was. This commercial assumes that we’ll think it’s hi-fucking-larious that a Texan can’t believe he’s related to a Mexican. And that’s giving it the benefit of the doubt: a less charitable interpretation is that the commercial wants us to laugh at the idea that a Texan COULD be related to a Mexican. Either way, the basic idea, however repressed — the gooey core that the commercial’s “humor” is built around — is fear of miscegnation. ¡Ay dios mio! Nuestra societa tiene muchos problemos con el racismo institutionalizado.*
A couple of other interesting points.
- Chicken Nuggets’ reaction to the idea that he has a Mexican cousin is mostly surprise. Small French Fries is downright pissed off by the implication that he might be French. Not sure quite what to make of this… any thoughts? Did the ad agency think that most Americans dislike France more than Mexico? Or is it precisely because France’s reputation is so good, that the idea of someone being racist against the French is a “safe” subject for comedy?
- Granted, the idea that French Fries speak with the Voice of America is kind of perfect.
- I called it the charitable interpretation above, but considering the unmitigated bitchiness of French Fries’ response, I really do think that the commercial is mocking the small-mindedness of mainstream America rather than simply wallowing in it. This might suggest a more subtle attempt at corporate realignment: the commercial wants us to stop associating McDonalds with strip malls, and start associating it with the people who make fun of strip malls, whether the jokes are funny or not.
* Note: this is not Spanish.
I think the main purpose of the ad is to strengthen individual brand identities for the menu items, not really to make people laugh.
They want the consumer to associate different thoughts and images with the food, so it’s kinda like brainwashing — they just sort of show them to you and assume you just internalize it and believe it.
McDonalds is so ubiquitous and its client base is so huge that they don’t think they’ll attract new people to these stores with these specific ads as they are hoping to retool their image a bit to better appeal to people who have been there and already formed opinions.
So, the chicken nuggets are “old fashioned” or “hearty” or maybe they’re just trying to give you the impression that they’re big and filling. The idea is if you’re looking for any of these qualities or identify any of them with yourself, you will develop a positive impression of the product whether you want to or not.
The chicken sandwich is “spicy.” Not a trait usually associated with McDonald’s food, which is mostly sugar and fake fat.
The parfait is “suitable for women” or “conscious of its appearance.”
The french fries “fear change.” If you fear change, eat french fries off the dollar menu! You will lose little money and stay fat!
So yeah, this reeks of an ad put together by committee. No really strong sales message, just cliffs notes from a branding brochure.
But with McDonalds’ market penetration and lack of meaningful competition, does it matter?
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