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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November 2003, 10:43 GMT
McDonald's ad burgers belief
Magazine's review of advertising

McDonald's ad
Who ordered a burger?

THE BRIEF: Selling a calorie-packed American icon in anti-American, health-conscious times.


THE SCRIPT: An ever-so-slightly posh English gent taunts the American public about how us Brits have been given exclusive access to McDonald's latest burger "The Big Tasty". As he drifts over Mount Rushmore in a giant burger shaped balloon.

This seems to be an unashamed attempt by one of the most iconic American brands of all, McDonald's, to hitch a ride on British patriotism.

We are not British, McDonald's seems to be saying - but we have given the British people a very special gift - a "British burger". Something the Americans would love to get their paws on.

McDonald's ad
Tremble in awe, feeble Americans
This is a complete U-turn on previous McDonald's advertising, which has gone out of its way to emphasise how un-American the company is - and how British an activity "going for a McDonald's" has become.

In the past, it has hired quirky British directors such as Shane Meadows in a bid to banish the memory of Ronald McDonald. These ads were the polar opposite of American advertising - wry, understated and ironic.

So why the sudden change of tack? Concern about falling sales and the threat of regulation may be to blame.

Earlier this year, McDonald's HQ in Chicago, Illinois, decided to launch its first global advertising push.

One easily-translatable message - "I'm lovin' it" (which was dreamt up by the firm's German advertising agency) - would unite the entire McDonald's "system" and show the world it meant business.

The problem is that the resulting ads are so bland that they could easily be re-edited to sell cars, clothes or... just about anything.

To a UK audience, "I'm lovin' it" recalls The Sun's recent "we love it" campaign (another example of a market leading brand with a bit of an image problem, going for feelgood inclusivity over triumphalism).

McDonald's ad
But will everybody else?
In different times, McDonald's might have been tempted to push the unifying message that it is American - and therefore great.

But, for many people, the McDonald's golden arches are a powerful symbol of American imperialism - something which is not necessarily a strong selling point in the current climate.

Earlier this year, McDonald's took out print ads in Argentina with "Made in Argentina" stamped in black letters across one of a burgers, after anti-war demonstrators targeted the corporation.

Things aren't quite in the same situation in the UK where people still love most things American, but love an occasional opportunity to get one over on them. Which, is where, presumably, our man in the burger-shaped blimp comes in.

Compiled by Brian Wheeler

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