They say life imitates art, but in some of our favourite McDonalds ads over the last few years, the opposite was true. One of the great tactics that McDonald’s has employed is to mimic or interact with social media platforms in their digital display ads. For example, we all spend countless hours a week scrolling through pictures of food on social media and more than a few of those pictures are boring and monotonous. In the 2016 McDonald’s Wraps campaign, McDonald’s harnessed the everyday monotony of social media and used it to draw the user’s attention to their exciting new wraps. The bright colours and fun, dancing movements of the wraps contrasted perfectly with the dull monotony of scrolling through pictures of sandwiches.
In that same year, McDonald’s employed a similar social media-driven tactic when they noticed that many people spend a portion of their week trying to come up with catchy and hilarious posts for their Facebook or Twitter accounts. McDonald’s strove to take the hard work out of that process by creating a “post generator” that, when the user interacted with it, would produce catchy, viral-worthy posts that the users could post to their own accounts. The interactivity of this unit is a welcome change from standard digital units that are not as enticing for the user.
One other major McDonald’s advertising trick is their mastery of placement. In the most impressive and ambitious McDonald’s digital display ad – that was designed specifically mobile-based customers – McDonald’s created a “Restaurant Finder” to help users find the nearest restaurant serving the signature collection. Utilizing the ad platform Celtra, the banner was pre-programmed with all the relevant UK restaurants. Whenever the ad displayed, it told the viewer how far they were from their nearest restaurant with that promotion. At the time, this technology was cutting edge and no other banner had the ability to display such specific user information. After clicking on the ad, the user could opt to open google maps and be directed to the nearest McDonald’s location!
For a less literal example of how McDonald’s promotes a sense of place in their ads, look no further than their GTA ads from 2016. McDonald’s created several different iterations of the same “road trip” ad so that the user could experience the feeling of travelling through different parts of America.
A final tool that is central to the McDonald’s cannon is capturing a feeling. In the McCafe Blended Ice ads, for example, McDonald’s set out to capture the sweltering heat of summer. The bright, sun-washed colours and slow-moving pan really make the user feel the heat and sluggishness of summer. Eventually, the snappy photo-like transitions from one frame to the next and the bright, almost fluorescent, end frame with the sweating and colourful iced drink makes the user feel like relief from the heat is only an iced drink away.
Another banner that we think captures a specific feeling was the McDonald’s smokehouse banners. For anyone who has ever grilled their own burgers, you understand that the smoke from the grill is an integral part not only to the taste but to the whole grilling experience. Capturing the 3D sensory experience of smoke in a 2D banner ad was no small feat. We think these smokehouse ads really make you feel like the smoke is going to float off your screen and into your room capturing the feeling of standing at a grill.