McDonald’s is probably the most famous, and maybe even the most successful, fast-food restaurant chain the world has ever seen. With those infamous Golden Arches being one of the most recognizable logos in the world, you may think that McDonald’s doesn’t even need to advertise these days, but of course, they do. Commercials may well be one of the best ways to get customers through your doors, but sometimes not all commercials hit the spot they were intended for and some are just outright terrifying! Here are our Top 10 Creepiest McDonald’s Commercials.
10. The First Ronald McDonald
Going all the way back to McDonald’s roots, one of the first pieces of branding genius was those two glorious Golden Arches. Very quickly the Golden Arches became a symbol of, not only McDonald’s but good, family food. So, when McDonald’s wanted to come up with another great gimmick, they choose a mascot in the shape of Ronald McDonald. Over the years Ronald has come under a lot of fire as more children seem to be frightened of clowns than love them. If any of the kids today watched the very first Ronald McDonald commercial, they would definitely choose the ‘frightened of clowns’ category and they will not be rushing to McDonald’s anytime soon. Whilst the release of Ronald McDonald to the world was supposed to be whimsical and fun, it came out creepy and terrifying. With his straw hair, cardboard hat, cup for a nose and that crazy face paint, it really is a wonder how Ronald McDonald has lasted so long. Originally the commercial was in black and white, which actually does soften the terror a little. Once they released it in color, Ronald McDonald became a truly terrifying clown.
9. Japanese Scare Fest
Ok, so this one isn’t an official McDonald’s commercial. It’s actually a Japanese parody but it could possibly be one of the creepiest and most haunting parody commercials ever! It’s no secret that clowns are scary, even when they are trying to be nice and playful. There is just something about the make-up and fake smiles that freak, not just children out, but all of us. This Japanese parody takes that fact and brings us clown terror that Stephen King himself would be proud of. The short starts with the famous McDonald’s clown trying to break into a young woman’s apartment, scratching at the door and unhooking the chain. He can then be seen outside her window and then, as if we couldn’t see this coming, the clown claws at the young girl from under the bed. Not too long after this, a rise in ‘clown crime’ was reported with many people actually blaming this commercial, at least for part of it, on the sudden crime wave. The backlash was so strong that McDonald’s actually ‘rested’ the real Ronald McDonald and kept him out of the spotlight for a long while.
8. I’m Not Lovin’ It
We’ve seen entries on this list that are genuine commercials and we’ve seen parody’s but what about commercials that are in protest of the fast-food giants? The ‘I’m Not Lovin’ It’ movement is one such campaign. Trying to change and expose McDonald’s for how they run their restaurants and their food, the I’m Not Lovin’ It campaign wants to highlight how badly McDonald’s treat their chickens. The Humaine League, which runs the campaign, has spent a lot of time and money on media coverage, eye-catching stunts, and ambitious advertising campaigns in order to stop McDonald’s treating their chickens so poorly. One such campaign was a series of commercials showing us that a Happy Meal isn’t so happy. There are actually a few ad campaigns; one shows images of what McDonald’s does to their live chickens. Another has Ronald McDonald talking to the camera in an eerie voice, all the while covering his face with his hands. He then removes his hands to reveal his shocking makeup and pronouncing that he is not our friend. But by far the creepiest of these commercials is when Ronald McDonald is sitting down for lunch with a little girl. Ronald passes her a Happy Meal, with some sweet and chirpy music playing in the background, the little girl looks inside the box and then the music changes. A horror sounding tune plays and Ronald’s face goes from happy to sinister. Not only that but not a single word is uttered which makes this a truly terrifying commercial.
7. Is This A Hat Commercial?
On our list of creepiest McDonald’s commercials, we have searched long and hard for those strange, and sometimes scary, commercials. However, as well as the scary ones we have also come across commercials that are just plain bizarre. This is one of those. It seems that TVs are littered with commercials that try to be artsy, and although they may look good, they don’t tell you anything about the products they are advertising. In this McDonald’s commercial, a young woman is trying on a hat. She loves trying on that hat and she shows it. That’s the commercial. A woman trying on a hat and then right at the very end the Golden Arches come up. We know that the Golden Arches are one of the most famous logos in the world, but still, is this really your commercial McDonald’s? At no point is there any food shown on the screen. No Ronald McDonald. No happy little theme tune. Just a woman who loves her hat. This one may not be scary but it sure is crazy.
6. ‘Speechless Thoughts’
If there is one thing that goes hand in hand together then it must be commercials and celebrities. If ever a company wants to sell us it’s latest product then they usually roll out a popular celebrity to promote it and that in itself makes their product desirable to us. This strategy works and has worked for decades. However, sometimes a company can get it slightly wrong when it comes to their celebrity endorsements and one such campaign was McDonald’s ‘Speechless Thoughts’ commercials. Rather than being desirable and making us want more, this celebrity-filled campaign came off as weird and kind of creepy. The advert had a series of celebrities, including John Goodman, Gabrielle Union, and NBA legend Charles Barkley, all of whom are seen enjoying a Quarter pounder. This sounds like it should be great but it wasn’t. The adverts consisted of the celebrities eating the burger but nothing else. Just a close up of them slowly enjoying their meal with extra chewing sound effects. Watching anyone eat a burger in silence for 30 seconds while they over exaggerate just how good it is, is enough to make any of us cringe let alone if it’s a celebrity. The second part of this campaign had John Goodman do a voice-over in front of a woman eating a Quarter Pounder. The voice was in a very low whispered tone and creeped a lot of people out. Although, it does have to be said that many found the commercial quite exciting with the Rosanne star coming off as more arousing than creepy. We’ll let you guys be the judge of that.
5. Mac Tonight
Today’s society is full of hotbed topics and issues that are constantly being looked at and talked about. While some areas of the world moves on at breakneck speed, some areas fail to keep up. The media industry has had many issues with many social topics and stereotypes that they try hard to address but sometimes still fall short. Whether it’s in movies, music or TV, the media sometimes doesn’t hit the right notes with people and can come across as prejudice or even derogatory. Sometimes, however, this isn’t the media’s fault and it is just a product of a different time. Because of the nature of society and how quickly it can change, sometimes what was once considered acceptable and popular, will now look extremely dated and even offensive. One such example of this is McDonald’s ‘Mac Tonight’ add campaign. Back in the mid-1980’s McDonald’s were looking to infiltrate another avenue. Not just content on cornering the breakfast and lunch menus, McDonald’s wanted to conquer the dinner market and make McDonald’s a place to go for a nice evening meal and they needed a mascot to fit this new direction. The way McDonald’s did this was to dress a man up in a suit and put a white crescent moon on his head and have him sing a parody of Bobby Darin’s ‘Mack the Knife.’ At the time the campaign was actually quite popular and even spawned a slightly alarming ‘Moon Man’ Happy Meal toy! However, viewed in today’s light, the ‘Moon Man’ looks creepy, and in extremely poor taste. Interestingly this campaign didn’t get pulled off the air for any of those reasons it was actually the estate of Bobby Darin that stopped it by suing McDonald’s. They didn’t want this mascot associated with Darin’s biggest hit.
4. Burger King
Sometimes an advert can come out that is specifically designed to scare us. Not only scare us but force us not to use the product and even boycott the brand altogether. What, you may ask, is the point of such a commercial? Well, if you’re a leading burger company then you are automatically in competition with McDonald’s and will probably lose. So, a good way to get customers through your doors is to start a smear campaign against your rivals and that’s exactly what Burger King did. One of several ‘trolling’ campaigns against Mickey D’s involved the infamous clown. Using Halloween, Burger King urged people to dress up as clowns, because clowns are scary obviously! And anyone that did wear a clown costume got a free Whopper. Cleverly using the tagline ‘Come as a clown, eat like a king,’ Burger King put out a 90-second advert on social media to promote this and to re-enforce how scary clowns are. The commercial itself has a young boy biking through the eerie streets at night time while being chased by a hoard of clowns. Cut inside a Burger King to see Ronald McDonald standing in the dark telling us he ‘wants his Whopper.’ The whole commercial is terrifying and perfectly designed to dig at McDonald’s most famous mascot. Another ‘trolling’ campaign from Burger King was to jump on the back of Stephen King’s IT. After the movie was released, Burger King added the line ‘The Morale is: Never trust a clown!’ just before the end credits.
3. What Did He Just Do?
Sometimes the best commercials and ad campaigns are the ones that make us laugh. They are the ones that poke fun at the world and themselves and they do so with charm and wit and that makes us all want to rush out and buy their product. There are, however, times when a company wants to come across as charming and witty but misses the mark by a long way. One of these ‘missed marks’ came from McDonald’s. In the middle eastern commercial a young couple is having a nice life; they go out on boats, they have hot dates and they seem to like ending most of their days with a McDonalds, and this whole montage is done to Meatloaf’s ‘I Will Do Anything For Love.’ What a perfect life. That should have been the commercial really, who wouldn’t want that life? However, when the couple sits down to eat their favorite McDonald’s meal, the young lady leans over and takes a french fry from her partner. He’s less than impressed. But rather than say something or tell her off, the guy angrily grabs her wrist and continues to bat her away. What follows is a strange Kung-Fu scene in which the loving couple beat each other. We know this was supposed to be ‘tongue in cheek’ but it just comes across as creepy and wrong on so many levels.
2. The Secret Service
Big Brother is watching you and you have to do what they say or else. This kind of notion has been at the center of many books and movies over the years. The idea that some agency or government is not only watching you but controlling everything you do and you can’t dare defy them as the consequences will be dire. Many people believe that this isn’t just a subject for good storytelling but is a reality in many countries. Maybe because of this it is very apt to have this ‘Big Brother’ theme in a McDonald’s commercial? We’re not so sure. Over in Isreal, the McDonald’s team decided to have a US government agency forcing young people out of your homes in the middle of the night, manhandling them from the cinema and putting them in the backs of vans and put them to work in McDonald’s, all to serve George W Bush a Big Mac meal. The whole commercial is glossy and slick and does look like a super cool action movie but we’re not really sure what the point is. Are the workers’ criminals? Are they being punished by having to work at McDonald’s? Is McDonald’s the government? Is the US bad? Whatever their point was, this commercial came across as genuinely sinister and not an inviting advertisement to eat at McDonald’s.
1. Wait! Is Ronald McDonald Sexy?
We’re not sure if this is creepy, weird or just wrong. The McDonald’s clown mascot has been many things over the years; he’s been lovable, playful, a kids hero and even sometimes he’s been a little creepy and scary. Whatever he has been to people, we can’t deny that Ronald McDonald is one of the most successful mascots of all time. But has Ronald McDonald ever been a sex symbol? We didn’t think so but apparently, it was tried and with very mixed results. Over in Japan, McDonald’s introduced us to a new kind of Mascot and had the famous clown recast as a woman. The commercial displays the female Ronald in his famous yellow and red outfit, only this young lady’s outfit is a bit skimpier! The commercial then has her eating a burger in slow motion whilst intermittently strutting across the screen. The ad looks like it should be advertising something on those special ‘grown-up’ channels and not every family’s favorite fast-food restaurant. We are all for equality and strive to make clowning an equal opportunities place of work, but you should have at least given us some warning before trying to make Ronald McDonald sexy. If not for our sake then think of the children.