Founded in the mid-fifties, McDonalds has been a fast-food staple for over half a century. Over the years, marketing teams in countries all over the world have come up with hundreds of different advertising campaigns for the fast food giant and its various food items. Some of these commercials have been forgotten to time, while others have become permanent fixtures in mainstream pop culture. We managed to narrow it down to a list of ten of the wackiest, funniest, and most memorable commercials that McDonalds has ever come out with. The most interesting thing about this list is that you can truly see how diverse the restaurant’s marketing is. Far from boxing themselves in, the fast food chain has experimented with several different styles, tones, and strategies. As a result, we’ve been graced with a wide range of very different commercials which can appeal to various audiences. So, without further ado, here are ten of the best McDonalds commercials of all time!
10. The Coffee Bean
This innovative advertisement could at one point be found on the sides of bus stops in the United States. It was specifically a McCafé promotion piece, however, it tied itself into the fast food side of things nicely. A simple advertisement, it depicted a single coffee bean on a plain background. However, what made this ad stand out as creative was the fact that the coffee bean bore a strong resemblance to a hamburger. When you think McDonalds, chances are that the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic Big Mac. Using what is arguably the restaurant’s trademark meal in advertising other menu items was a smart move. This piece of advertising serves as a reminder that McDonalds isn’t exclusively your one-stop-shop for all things fast food. They also have a pretty solid breakfast menu, and their coffee can get you through even the earliest morning shifts at work. While being quite simple, this McCafé promotional piece definitely hit the mark, as it makes for an incredibly memorable advertisement that we’d really like to see more of.
9. The Fishing Date
This McDonalds commercial is a little bit messed up. However, we can’t help but appreciate the touch of dark humor. It starts off with a married couple driving down a country road, clearly irritated with one another. The wife drops her husband off in a huff. He then proceeds to head to a fishing hole, a McDonalds bag in hand. He takes a seat on the dock, preparing for a much-needed relaxing day of fishing, and sits his McDonalds lunch down beside him. Suddenly, a sea monster appears onscreen, and lunges towards the man, mouth open wide. The plot twist here is that, instead of eating the man whole, the sea monster chows down on the McDonalds meal, taking a significant portion of the dock with it. Because McDonalds is just that good – even sea monsters can’t resist the temptation. Cue the time jump. The husband has returned to the same lake, but this time, he brought his wife with him. She happily sits beside him on the dock. The commercial ends with the husband handing his wife the McDonalds bag, which she holds on her lap. Fade to black. You see how it’s messed up? This advertisement might be a little dark but, you’ve got to admit, it’s also pretty funny. It’s a different angle for McDonalds, as most of the fast food giant’s commercials are pretty wholesome. This ad makes for a nice change of pace and would appeal to a different audience – specifically, one with a slightly more morbid sense of humor.
8. George Costanza and the New McDLT
Have you ever seen that episode of Seinfeld where George can’t get that one song from Les Misérables out of his head? This commercial’s like that except, instead of singing about the French revolution, Jason Alexander belts out a tune about a new addition to the McDonalds menu. Many people don’t know this, but Alexander actually kicked off his acting career on Broadway! So, what new menu item was enough to get George Costanza to burst into song? It was the McDLT. If you’ve never heard of this food item, it’s because it’s since been discontinued. The McDLT, or McDonald’s Lettuce and Tomato burger, was a spin on the classic BLT, or bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Essentially, what they swapped one protein for another and replaced the bacon with a beef patty. The burger itself doesn’t sound all that exciting, but the McDLT was more about the experience than the food itself. It was served in a Styrofoam container, which was divided into two compartments. One held the hot hamburger patty sitting on the bottom bun, and the other held the top bun, lettuce and tomato. It was then up to the customer to slap the two halves together. Keeping the hot ingredients separate from the cold was an interesting idea but, unfortunately, it was also the burger’s downfall. It was discontinued after about six years as a result of many complaints about how the Styrofoam packaging was creating excess waste and environmentally unfriendly. It’s a shame that they couldn’t think of a better way to package this burger but, on the bright side, we’re very happy that it brought us this amazing advertisement.
7. Hamburger University
This is probably the strangest of the McDonalds commercials explored on this list. However, it’s playful tone and quirky animation style made it greatly appealing to kids. The commercial is set at Hamburger University, in a class taught by none other than Ronald McDonald himself. As the name of the university would suggest, the students attending Ronald McDonald’s lecture are all hamburgers. Making a special appearance in this class is a mischievous looking character ominously named “The Hamburglar”. Professor Ronald McDonald happily continues with the lecture, completely oblivious to the fact that his guest is doing his best to live up to his name. Thankfully, outcry from his hamburger pupils alerts him to the fact that the Hamburglar has been trying to steal as many burgers as possible by stuffing them into a duffle bag. In the end everything is put right and the lecture can resume as planned. The Hamburglar gets a stern talking to, and Professor Ronald McDonald sends him to detention. While it’s not the advertisement’s intention, viewers are left empathizing with the Hamburglar. After all, what wouldn’t you do for a McDonalds hamburger?
6. Free Coffee
For anyone with a Gilmore Girls level of love (or need) for caffeine will appreciate this McCafé promotion. The brainchild of Canadian advertising agency, Cosette West, this advertisement took place for about two weeks, during which time you could get your coffee fix at specified bus stops. Two panes of glass placed against the side of the bus shelter were filled with McCafé coffee beans, which commuters could take for free. Of course, you’d then have to go grind the beans and brew your own coffee, which takes significantly more effort than just buying a coffee at your local McD’s. This is especially true of people who came across this promotion in the middle of their commute – or those who don’t own a coffee grinder. However, broke college students will do a lot for a free caffeine fix, so it’s probably safe to say that many people would view the hassle as more than worth it. Free samples work well as an advertising technique, since once people get a taste of the product, they’ll be tempted to come back for more. Who knows how many caffeine addictions this advertisement is responsible for?
5. Little Sister
Let’s take a break from the goofy and the humorous and turn to a more wholesome, feel good ad. This commercial was as cheesy as any slice-of-life sitcom from the eighties, but the nostalgia factor keeps it from aging too poorly. Depicting a brother-sister relationship as it evolves over their lifetimes, this advertisement will pull at the heartstrings of parents and siblings alike. Backed by a corny soundtrack, viewers watch the ways in which McDonalds never fails to bring a big brother and his little sister together. It’s a feel-good commercial that pushes the idea that food is much more than just sustenance; it can play a huge role in forming and maintaining relationships. With such diverse advertising, McDonalds is sure to reach a wide audience. So far on this list, we’ve seen various types of humor, Broadway song and dance, free coffee, and now wholesome family content. If there were ever a way to convince your parents to bring you and your siblings to McDonalds for dinner, showing them this commercial might be it.
4. Olympic Pride
McDonalds was one of the official sponsors of the Torino Olympic Winter Games in 2006. The fast food chain took this role in stride and used the hype surrounding the Olympic Games as a clever marketing tool. This poster from the Netherlands depicts a steep ski hill and gives the viewer the perspective of an Olympic downhill skier. The skier is positioned at the top of the steep, snow covered mountain. Peeking into frame are the tips of the Olympian’s skis. The skis are white with a golden-yellow outline and when they’re perfectly aligned with one another, as they are in this advertisement, they form a very recognizable symbol. The golden arches of the McDonalds logo standout against the white, snowy background, immediately drawing the gaze of the viewer. The Olympics are a big deal; people go crazy for them. Seeing the games incorporated into McDonalds marketing would absolutely make the restaurant seem more appealing to many. The games are a source of national pride for a lot of people, so seeing McDonalds support them in this way makes buying a Big Mac feel like you’re doing your part to support your country’s athletes a well. Overall, this ad looks great, and McD’s definitely made their Olympic sponsorship work in their favor.
3. You Deserve a Break Today
Jason Alexander’s McDLT commercial isn’t the only McDonalds advertisement to break out the Broadway tunes. This cheerful, happy-go-luck television advertisement features the staff of a McDonalds restaurant, singing as they go about their day. The commercial puts a heavy emphasis on cleanliness, as the employees are frequently shown cleaning the restaurant. This was a smart move on their part, as the fact that the restaurant was being cleaned thoroughly wasn’t the main focus of the advertisement, but it still managed to clearly convey the message that McDonalds highly values hygiene. Fast food restaurants are often thought of as being dirty, so it was a good idea to address the issue and show customers that choosing McDonalds is always the right choice, especially for those concerned about restaurant hygiene. The musical number also encourages viewers to take a load off and treat themselves to some chicken nuggets or fries. Self-care comes in many forms and taking some time to relax and treat yourself to good food is one of the best. Finally, the joyful atmosphere of this advertisement is contagious. You can’t help but smile when you watch it. If you think about this from a psychology perspective, this can actually cause people to associate McDonalds with feelings of happiness, making them more inclined to stop by for a bite.
2. The Showdown
One of the most iconic commercials, not just in McDonalds history, but of all time, is the showdown between basketball greats Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. In the advertisement, which was aired during Super Bowl XXVII, Jordan and Bird face off in a game of HORSE. The stakes? A McDonalds Big Mac, of course. Watching these two legends face off is amazing in itself, but this promotion aspired to go big or go home. The basketball stars one-up themselves with each basket. By the end of the game, they’re shooting hoops from the roof of a building. This commercial proved to be so popular that it was followed up years later with a similar commercial, which starred Lebron James and Dwight Howard. Just like Jordan and Bird, James and Howard agreed that the winner of the game would be awarded a McDonalds meal. However, before a clear winner is determined, their game is crashed by none other than Larry Bird, who claims the meal for himself. This cameo brings things full circle and ties the old and new commercials together seamlessly. It also serves as a reminder than, while the Lebron James versus Dwight Howard commercial will go down in history, it still doesn’t have anything on Michael Jordan and Larry Bird’s original McDonald’s showdown.
1. Two All Beef Patties
And last, but certainly not least, is the commercial that brought us what is arguably the most famous jingle of all time. If you grew up in the eighties, there’s no way that you don’t have the tune “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – on a sesame seed bun” permanently burned into your memory. The jingle, which describes the Big Mac burger, debuted in the mid-seventies, and has been brought back many times since then. This specific advertisement is from the eighties and provides a beautiful adaptation of the jingle. A female choir kicks things off, but male voices soon join in. It ends up sounding incredibly angelic, almost like a classic Christmas carol. Accompanying the singing are several delectable looking images of the Big Mac. It’s enough to make anyone’s mouth water. The burger has never looked better. This jingle and the burger it describes are truly a testament to the popularity of McDonalds. The Big Mac was released in the late sixties and continues to be one of the most beloved foods in the world, and this forty-year-old jingle continues to be sang to this very day. You can’t argue the cultural impact of this advertisement, and that’s why it deserves the number one spot on this list.