Of Marketing and Men

By Millie Schwartz

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Ad #1: Fortune 400

This ad is aimed at the middle-aged and overweight--people who know they have to count their calories but who are unwilling to give up the comforts of good old factory-made McDonald's food. It appeals to them by assuring them that there are so many options (they won't have to eat another version of the health food they've been choking on). Visually, a great deal has been done--the brightness of the colors of the food makes them seem more appealing, the red everywhere stimulates hunger, and the signature colors and stylized M appeals to the part of the human brain that just wants the familiar. The ad contains a plot--the nice people at McDonald's cared that you wanted healthier food that they created so many healthy options for you, and they'll be happy to see you at McDonald's when you buy them. This ad exploits the needs to be physically happy and attractive. Nobody wants to be overweight, and the marketing department has no problem pretending that these foods are good for you. I think this advertisement is effective for precisely that reason. It exploits a basic human desire, implies that this menu was made because McDonald's cares about you--warm fuzzy feelings tend to lead to large bills--and is rife with misinformation. These foods are marketed as if they're healthful, but this is actually the "Under 400" menu, as if there is any other value that would make sense for a biscuit with a circle of meat and some cheese slapped on there. And it's not as if low calories make something worth eating; these foods are likely full of exotic fats and loads of salt, and the calories are likely empty ones. But hey, by the time the consumer has realized this, they've probably already bought that chicken sandwich.
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The Eyes Have It

This ad is targeted at young people. It tells them that eating there will make them cool or will reinvent them (give them a "tasty new look"). A lot of work has been done with lighting to make the colors pop and the shapes in the makeup were likely done multiple times to ensure they looked enough like a hamburger but also were stylish, with a dramatic cat eye. There is a story implied here: This model is presumably at a fashion show or about to appear in a magazine shoot, and a Burger King hamburger was thought glamorous enough to be painted on her face. It appeals to the need to be physically attractive--if you eat at Burger King, you too may get a "tasty new look" and appear in an advertisement for a second-rate McDonald's knockoff. I really don't think this ad is effective. I have been staring at this ad for a long time while writing this paragraph, and that hamburger looks like nothing so much as a black eye. If I saw this in the New York Times, I'd think it was an article about a link between fast food and domestic abuse. Furthermore, they are targeting exactly the wrong people with this ad. You can't convince teenagers and twenty-somethings that eating at Burger King will make them cool when everyone knows Burger King is even worse than McDonald's when it comes to status. Finally, you know who can read that logo in the bottom right corner? Nobody. You can barely see it on that brown paper bag. People are going to come away from this thinking they just read an ad for McDonald's.
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Ad #3: Participation Award

This is once again an ad for the middle-aged who have already been hooked on McDonald's and only need the reminder that they're still there. It shows a tasty burger and--boom--people realize they're hungry show up. It appeals visually by using patriotic colors for the medal and then wastes no time splashing McDonald's red everywhere else to remind the public where their allegiances really lie. The big M and Olympic logo are almost as big as the burger, marketing the brand loyalty just as much as the product. The character in the ad is a lot like most readers--fairly average build, regular clothes--but the ad makes it clear he has just won something--and the prize was a McDonald's burger. Perhaps, seeing as he looks so average and this is an ad about the Olympics, McDonald's helped him win? It targets the need to identify with the people you admire; Michael Phelps is in the Olympics, and you can buy from the Olympics' official sponsor! Once again, I do not think this ad is effective. You're supposed to see this ad and want to be like the Olympians, except the model certainly looks more like Jim Gaffigan than Phelps. It's not very visually striking, even though hours were likely spent getting this picture to look like it does. And, finally, as one picture put it:
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David Beckham - Burger King 2012 Commercial

Ad #4: Beckham Burgers

This ad is basically for people who like David Beckham, and they appeal to them by showing David Beckham. The people who like David Beckham enough to be swayed by his appearance in an ad are mostly young women (and some young men), especially British young people, who actually know what he is famous for. (It's soccer, by the way. I looked this guy up.) On top of that, you have to hand it to the visuals people--the BK logo is everywhere. You can see it on the backs of the windows behind him, meaning in some shots it appears twice. It's also on the smoothie cup and the girl's uniform--twice, in fact--just in case you were so busy staring at David Beckham you forgot who paid him all that money to shill for their smoothie. The smoothie itself, along with its ingredients, are almost certainly the subject of lots of lighting, saturation, and contrast adjustments to make the colors pop and to turn an otherwise fairly unappealing smoothie into something good-looking. Because it's a video, it has a plot, although it mostly consists of Beckham asking for a smoothie. The characters can be summed up as "apparently good-looking man with British accent" and "girl who likes previous character." But seeing as most people watching this will identify with "girl who likes David Beckham," it works. This ad appeals to the need to be like the people we admire, in this case David Beckham. If David Beckham eats at Burger King, then we should too. I think this ad works. For one thing, it's funny, and if you remember laughing at a Burger King ad, you'll associate that good feeling with the brand itself. Also, all the emphasis on the "strawberry-banana smoothie" distracts you from the fact that A) that strawberry-banana flavor was probably manufactured by scientists in New Jersey, B) despite all that fruit shown, it's likely terrible for you, and C) that thing is roughly 90% sugar. Also, finally: It's got David Beckham. They probably sold millions of those nasty drinks.
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Ad #5: Rock is Dead

This ad is targeted at people who like rock, particularly heavy rock. (I know Simon and Garfunkel is technically classic rock, but imagine doing that to "Mrs. Robinson.") It appeals to them by suggesting McDonald's likes rock (Ronald McDonald already has more makeup than most of KISS, so who knows.) The only colors in this ad are the McDonald's colors, and they've used so much contrast the colors don't even look good anymore. The logo is the second biggest thing in this ad, making sure everyone knows who wants you to eat their Metallica Meals. And even though the one on the hand is big enough, they've got another logo in the top left corner, just in case. As for story, the "rock on" hand signal is a symbol for independence and rebellion. This ad appeals to the need to belong to a group--all your fellow rockers and metalheads are a McDonald's, aren't they? The ad says so. But I think this whole ad was a terrible idea. It's not just the fact that the colors are so deep they're ugly, or that it does a terrible job appealing to the need it's targeting. (This seems more like a desperate attempt to convince people they're cool than a way of telling people this is where the cool people hang out.) It's that they appealed to some of the most anti-McDonald's people on Earth. People who listen to rock like to believe they are independent, rebellious, and counter-culture, and there is nothing more mainstream and corporate than McDonald's. I think the marketing director behind this one better realize he's one of "The Unforgiven" for this mess.
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Ad #6: Rosemary's Baby

This ad is for the people in Kimaya, Kothrud (according to Wikipedia, it's somewhere in India) who had been noticing a lack of cheap bad food in their hometown. It draws their attention to the fact that a new McDonald's has opened there so they may begin buying their body weight in fries. The colors of this ad are made to stand out, and they are put against a blank background for exactly that purpose. There is nothing in here that is not associated with McDonald's, from the shade of red used to the logo to Ronald McDonald's face, transplanted onto a baby who likely did not deserve this. That poor baby is in the ad to symbolize the newness of the restaurant, but also innocence. (Perhaps saying, "Please don't blame us for something and then destroy our restaurant like all you overseas people seem to want to do). This ad is less an attempt to convince them to eat at McDonald's than to tell them the McDonald's is there, so the only need it really exploits is the need for fast food. And that's part of the reason I think this ad is a failure. Instead of exploiting a basic need that makes people want to eat there, it assumes that people already do, which is generally not what you're supposed to do as an advertiser. Also, if it's just there to raise awareness about the new restaurant, maybe they should actually include the address. By not telling the people where this new restaurant is, they have failed at the one thing they set out to do. But most of all, that baby is freaky as all get out. Nobody with an interest in keeping their souls is going anywhere near that place.