McDonald’s and Burger King are so ubiquitous that it’s easy to think they’ll never go away, but the chains actually haven’t been doing so well in recent years. In a bid to regain popularity, particularly among people who Google everything, the businesses have devised TV commercials designed to make you go online. In McDonald’s case, that means a Mindy Kaling advertisement that never actually mentions the name “McDonald’s.”
The ad, created by the We Are Unlimited agency, started running the week of April 10, is designed to avoid obvious corporate messaging. Instead of more traditional, explicit raving like, “No matter where you might be at, there’s a Big Mac for that!” or “McDonald’s cheeseburgers are so delicious you almost have to smile!,” Kaling doesn’t reference McDonald’s brand name, and instead tells viewers to Google it.
“According to some, there’s a place where Coca-Cola tastes, like, so good,” she says. “Go ahead, do a Google search for that place.”
According to Deborah Wahl, McDonald’s chief marketing officer at the time of the ad’s creation, the promotion is meant to reach teens and twentysomethings who tend to use their cellphones while they watch TV and prefer to research products themselves rather than accept advertisers’ suggestions outright.
“They are very influenced by word of mouth and what their peers say,” Wahl told The New York Times.
Wahl noted that Google didn’t rank any search results for “That place where Coke tastes so good” in favor of McDonald’s, but was giving the company feedback to that they could discover whether the technique worked. “What they’re helping us do is understand if people are really searching as a result of this,” she said, “and offering close feedback and collaboration in terms of what’s happening with this with real behavior.” So far, so good, it seems — if you search that phrase, you will indeed see many results relating to McDonald’s.
McDonald’s isn’t the only fast-food company shaping its advertising around common internet-related behaviors. Burger King came out with a now-infamous promotion on April 12 in which an actor attempted to trigger viewers’ Google Home devices with the voice command, “OK, Google.” He continued, “What is the Whopper burger?” When the trick was successful, the Google Home units read off the beginning of the Wikipedia entry about Whoppers.
Some have called the advertisement clever, and others invasive; it definitely wasn’t perfect, since Google was able to quickly shut off Google Home’s response to that specific query.
Whatever the flaws of these ads, they demonstrate how marketers are trying to stay on the front end of the rapidly-evolving digital revolution.