McDonald’s Advertising journey

McDonald’s ad from the 1950’s.

McDonald’s has for decades maintained an extensive advertising campaign. In addition to the usual media (television, radio, and newspaper), the company makes significant use of billboards and signage, sponsors sporting events ranging from Little League to the Olympic Games, and makes coolers of orange drink with their logo available for local events of all kinds. Nonetheless, television has always played a central role in the company’s advertising strategy.

To date, McDonald’s has used 23 different slogans in United States advertising, as well as a few other slogans for select countries and regions. At times, it has run into trouble with its campaigns.

The company is one of the most prevalent fast food advertisers. McDonald’s Canada’s corporate website states that the commercial campaigns have always focused on the “overall McDonald’s experience”, rather than just product.The purpose of the image has always been “portraying warmth and a real slice of every day life.” Its TV ads, showing various people engaging in popular activities, usually reflect the season and time period. Finally, rarely in their advertising history have they used negative or comparison ads pertaining to any of their competitors; the ads have always focused on McDonald’s alone, one exception being a 2009 billboard advertising the new McCafe espresso. The billboard read “four bucks is dumb”, a shot at competitor Starbucks. (source)

Black & white photo of Willard Scott as the first Ronald McDonald.

McDonald’s advertising campaigns were inseparably connected with its brand image and marketing strategy. McDonald’s is much more than place, where people get their food, but it is rather a place, where people spend time with their families or friends. At least, that is the concept and perception, which McDonald’s attempts to communicate through all its marketing and advertising messages.

The history of performing the successful marketing for McDonald’s is very long. Since the founding of this enterprise in the 60s of the last century, McDonald’s has conducted a great number of different advertising campaigns and has created a great number of very successful and attractive advertising slogans. Moreover, through every McDonald’s advertising campaign the company attempts to reach some special segment of their target consumer audiences and to make their advertising relevant and acceptable for its consumers. Thus, let us take a look at the McDonald’s advertising campaign slogans, which this enterprise has used during the last five decades: (source)


McDonald’s is Your Kind of Place (1967)
You Deserve a Break Today (1971)
We Do it All for You (1975)
Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun (1975)
You, You’re The One (1976)
Nobody Can Do It Like McDonald’s Can (1979)
Renewed: You Deserve a Break Today (1980 & 1981)
Nobody Makes Your Day Like McDonald’s Can (1981)
McDonald’s and You (1983)
It’s a Good Time for the Great Taste of McDonald’s (1984)
Good Time, Great Taste, That’s Why This is My Place (1988)
Food, Folks and Fun (1990)
McDonald’s Today (1991)
What You Want is What You Get (1992)
Have you Had your Break Today? (1995)
My McDonald’s (1997)
Did Somebody Say McDonald’s (1997)
We Love to See You Smile (2000)
There’s a little McDonald’s in Everyone (2001) – Canada Only
i’m lovin’ it (2003)

McDonald’s original advertising symbol was a winking little fellow named “Speedee”, designed to promote McDonald’s fast service. In the 50s and early 60s, McDonald’s drive-in restaurants were easily identified by their red and white tile buildings, which were capped with a slanted roof and framed on either end by a single golden, neon arch. Restaurants began to use the advertising theme, “Look for the Golden Arches” and in 1961, the “Speedee” symbol was replaced by a new logo – an “M” slashed with a line, symbolizing the neon arches and restaurant roofline. The arches, updated over the years, remain the advertising symbol for the company and are now one of the most recognized icons in the world. (source)

Speedee Logo

1955, of Ray Kroc’s first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois.

night shot of the Museum Store in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Regardless of the slogan, McDonald’s has adhered to one marketing strategy for the greater part of the last 50 years: Be the fun, friendly place for families.

“We were that famous Norman Rockwell family experience,” says Larry Light, McDonald’s executive vice president and global chief marketing officer.

Since September 2003, however, McDonald’s has focused on creating a more modern image with its global “i’m lovin’ it” marketing campaign, which features youthful images, hip music and sports and music celebrities.

In the early years, McDonald’s marketing consisted chiefly of local print advertising, mostly bought by franchisees eager to drive business in their communities.

But in the 1960s, with TV growing more effective as an ad medium and the rapid expansion of the McDonald’s system–first in the United States and then in Canada–local advertising was no longer enough.

In 1967 McDonald’s launched its first national TV campaign with $3 million pooled by franchisees, who previously relied on commercial time purchased on their local TV and radio stations. A year later, McDonald’s hired its first major ad agency, D’Arcy Advertising of St. Louis. The firm created the campaign that introduced Americans to the Big Mac, which had just been launched nationwide. McDonald’s later hired Paul Schrage, the D’Arcy media buyer working the account, as the fast-food chain’s first senior executive vice president and marketing chief officer. D’Arcy, however, resigned the McDonald’s account in 1969 to concentrate on its largest client, Standard Oil.

McDonald’s then turned to Chicago ad agency Needham, Harper and Steers–known today as DDB Needham–which in 1971 created the “You deserve a break today” campaign. The TV jingle quickly became one of the most identifiable advertising themes in American history.

By the mid 1970s, the thrust of McDonald’s advertising had shifted from local efforts to national campaigns, such as “We do it all for you” in 1975 and “You, you’re the one” a year later.

Operators, however, had been pressuring McDonald’s for more product-focused advertising, and Needham responded in 1974 with the catchy slogan “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” for the Big Mac. The first TV spots used actors to sing the jingle, but subsequent commercials featured real people to forge an even closer bond with customers.

Dean Barrett, McDonald’s senior vice president of global marketing, recalls that the Big Mac slogan appeared in newspaper inserts, on T-shirts, and even in restaurant contests, which rewarded customers with a free Big Mac if they could sing the jingle.

“It became the No. 1 requested song on the radio, and it wasn’t even a song, Barrett says. The campaign was the expression of McDonald’s in its own time, in terms of the fun attitude.”

In the 1980s, McDonald’s introduced such ad slogans as “It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonald’s” and “Nobody can do it like McDonald’s.” The 1990s opened with McDonald’s adopting “Food, folks and fun” as its national ad theme, which gave way in 1995 to a variation of another popular theme: “Have you had your break today?” Three years later, McDonald’s advertising posed another question: “Did somebody say McDonald’s?”

By 2000 the theme became “We love to see you smile,” and the chain began to reassess its marketing strategy. The “food, folks and fun” message of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was no longer relevant, Light says. Although consumer lifestyles, taste and attitudes had changed, he says, the chain’s marketing strategy had not. The loyal customers from those decades didn’t stop eating at or bringing their kids to McDonald’s, but they were eating there less often. Still, that was good news, according to Light.

“Usually, when a brand doesn’t stay relevant, the consumer just abandons it and goes somewhere else,” Light explains. “But we had this wellspring of affection going back to people’s childhood where they genuinely had fond memories of our brand. They wanted us to succeed.”

The challenge for McDonald’s was to increase visits from its traditional customer base while appealing to a new generation of diners. That meant changing the brand’s “sweet spot,” Light says.

“The brand image, not the customer base, was about being a great place for families,” Light says. “That was where the brand equity was mainly anchored: family place, morn bringing a child, Happy Meal. Our new sweet spot is 18- to 24-year-olds.” (source)

i’m lovin’ it is an international branding campaign by McDonald’s Corporation. It was created by Heye & Partner, a longtime McDonald’s agency based in Unterhaching, Germany, near Munich, and a member of the DDB Worldwide Communications Group, Inc. It was the company’s first global advertising campaign and was launched in Munich, Germany on September 2, 2003, under the German title ich liebe es. The English part of the campaign was launched in Australia on September 21, 2003, the UK on September 25, 2003, and in the USA on September 29, 2003 with the music of Tom Batoy and Franco Tortora (Mona Davis Music) and vocals by Justin Timberlake, in which the slogan appears. In 2007, after a public casting call which received 15,000 submissions, McDonald’s selected 24 people to appear as part of the campaign. Images of those chosen, who had submitted a story and digital photograph which “captured … themes of inspiration, passion and fun,” appeared on McDonald’s paper bags and cups worldwide.

In Spring 2008, McDonald’s underwent the first phase of their new image and slogan: ‘What we’re made of.’ This was to promote how McDonald’s products are made. Packaging was tweaked a little to feature this new slogan. In Fall 2008, McDonald’s introduced new packaging, eliminating the previous design stated above with new, inspirational messages, the “i’m lovin it” slogan. (appearing only once on most packages). McDonald’s also updated their menu boards with darker, yet warmer colors, more realistic photos of the products featured on plates and the drinks in glasses.(source)


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