TBWA\Paris places ads within ads in this new McDonald's campaign, with print and billboard elements playing key roles in a series of understated TV commercials.
Branding cues such as the McDonald's name, tagline and Golden Arches are de-emphasized. In fact, they're entirely absent from the print ads and billboards. The goal is to focus on the iconic, instantly recognizable menu items. We get intense close-ups of crispy fries peeking out of familiar red-and-gold packaging, a giant McNugget dunked in tangy sauce and sundaes drizzled with nuts and chocolate.
Director Xavier Mairesse weaves these visuals into a trio of simple but effective TV spots that need no dialog to deliver their message. In "Dentist," a patient repeatedly opens and closes his mouth as he watches McDonald's fries cycle through a billboard outside. "Yoga" shows a group of enthusiasts chanting "Ommmmmm" as they ogle a full-page McNugget newspaper spread. Women who show up for a job "Interview" smear their lipstick by hungrily licking their lips when they spy a McDonald's sundae in a colorful magazine ad. (Integrating the unbranded work into high-profile commercials—and generating media coverage for the overall campaign—should help make the print ads and billboards even more readily identifiable as ads from McDonald's.)
This brand-as-icon strategy is the same basic approach used in Translation's earlier, pleasingly trippy Big Mac campaign. TBWA's humor, however, is more restrained, allowing the work to quietly make its point about the effect McDonald's food can have on consumers, even when that food is present only in the form of ads.
That in itself is a tad trippy and slightly surreal, and it makes a strong though surely unintended statement about the ubiquity and cultural impact of McDonald's advertising. Consider how much of it we see in our lifetimes—all the TV spots, billboards and print ads, the countless online banners and Web videos. Heck, we might see multiple spots during one night of TV or a single sitcom.
Through sheer volume, the chain's existence in the paid-media realm is just as palpable and perhaps even more intense than its presence in the physical world. So, it's fitting that it would craft a campaign in which its own ads are the stars.