Is McDonalds’ New ‘Signs’ Commercial Trying Too Hard?

Above: McDonald's new TV commercial highlights some of the many messages shown on the restaurant's signs under its trademark Golden Arches
Above: McDonald's new TV commercial highlights some of the many messages shown on the restaurant's signs under its trademark Golden Arches

McDonalds has been around since the 1940’s, and although they have added and subtracted menu options over the years, they have stayed basically the same. Hamburgers, french fries, chicken nuggets, and milkshakes all remain staples. Imagine trying to come up with unique and effective ad campaigns every year for the same products? There have been new additions along the way, like smoothies, baked goods, and limited time only sandwiches like the McRib, and McLobster, but creating an advertising campaign for a company that hasn’t changed all that much is bound to be difficult.

That brings us to the new commercial, “Signs” which depicts real McDonalds signs across America that have expressed support, sympathy, and congratulations for their community, and their country. The commercial includes messages like “We Remember 9/11”, “Boston Strong”, and “Pray for the Trapped Miners” under the iconic Golden Arches in an attempt to portray that McDonalds is a strong pillar in every community. They also include more personal messages like birth announcements, anniversaries, and happy birthdays to show that McDonalds cares about every individual. At least that was what they were going for.

The commercial, which debuted and aired heavily during Super Bowl play off games and the Golden Globes award ceremony on the weekend of January 12th, was met with mixed reviews. Although many ad industry experts believe the commercial succeeds in positioning McDonalds as an American icon, Twitter lit up with people saying that the ad was tasteless and insensitive for using national tragedies to promote their brand.

The intention was to remind people that McDonalds is a part of the community, and that includes being there when bad things happen. Instead of showing images of the actual products, they were trying to promote the image of comfort and familiarity. Since advertising is all about conveying the right image, the “Signs” commercial actually does a decent job of making McDonalds more than just a fast food joint.

On the other hand, as some Twitter users pointed out, if McDonalds really cared about their customer and their community they would pay employees more than minimum wage, use more local ingredients, and stop making products that are damaging the health of the entire country. Not to mention that connecting tragedies with fast food is kind of like encouraging emotional eating, because who hasn’t craved a large fries when they are feeling depressed?

McDonalds has been working on rebranding themselves, and bringing consumers what they want, but they are still fast food. Their product isn’t going to change that much, and even if they do make a move to include more healthy options on their menu, it still won’t be enough to change stubborn minds about McDonalds really is. So, did they exploit national tragedies to promote their brand? Not really. Those signs were up whether a commercial was made about them or not, so why take it as any more than McDonalds trying to show that they are there through it all, just like everyone else?

In the end, the commercial really seemed to strike a nerve, and you either loved it or hated it. But it got people talking, and that is what advertising is all about.

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared on AmongMen.com, 29secrets.com, therichest.com, and ELLECanada.com.  When she isn’t writing about relationships, and the best TV shows and books you should really already know about, she is working on her novel. She hopes to have it published by 2025. You can follow her on Twitter @Courtooo.

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