McDonald’s rolls out the welcome mat with new platform

Chain puts real life stories on display, and emphasizes local restaurants and diners

McDonald’s Canada is rolling out a warm welcome with its new brand platform.

The fast food chain has introduced a brand positioning and tagline, “Welcome to McDonald’s” in a campaign released Tuesday and slated to run for the next five weeks. The effort marks the first new positioning McDonald’s has introduced in Canada since its 2012 campaign “Our Food, Your Questions,” which went on to win at Cannes and helped earn McDonald’s Canada Marketing‘s Marketer of the Year honour that year.

It also marks McDonald’s first major brand campaign under the helm of Canadian CMO Antoinette Benoit, who joined the company’s Canadian operations last March. Shortly after taking on the role, Benoit, previously vice-president of strategy and insight for McDonald’s Europe, met with the Montreal-based agency N/A, which created the new campaign.

Benoit told Marketing N/A was inspired by the level of transparency McDonald’s showed with “Our Food, Your Questions” and shared an idea on how it could build upon the campaign with authentic stories about McDonald’s. The agency wanted to send “light” film crews to McDonald’s locations and capture consumers as they ate. Intrigued, Benoit had the agency film for half a day as a test.

The results were strong enough to warrant a full campaign. “It was so real, so genuine,” Benoit said. “It was really human and really convincing.”

The brand kept filming, creating the campaign as it went along, without ever delivering a formal brief to N/A. It went on to film more than 115 hours and interview 450 customers, franchise owners and crew members – though Benoit said some of the footage from the original test shoot made it to the final campaign.

With “Our Food, Your Questions,” McDonald’s took consumers behind-the-scenes to show how its food is made. With this campaign, Benoit said the brand wanted to showcase daily life at its stores. “It’s a different way to go behind the golden arches,” she said.

The campaign includes two TV spots, “Nicknames” and “A Place.” The first is a series of shots of different types of McDonald’s customers, from elderly people drinking coffee to a young couples sharing fries and a young child ordering at the counter. The second is a manifesto about what McDonald’s means to different Canadians.

Both ads are diverse by design, Benoit said, showing a cross-section of ages, races and types of people that’s meant to reflect the quick-serve chain’s wide target.

welcome to mThe campaign also includes a large OOH buy, with ads showcasing consumers from across the country and a quote explaining why they’re at McDonald’s. Each photo lists the subject’s first name and where they were photographed. According to Benoit, the process for capturing stories for the OOH ads was very different from the TV spots. With the OOH ads, the creative team approached customers and interviewed them to get quotes, then took a photo. For the TV spots, she said customers often didn’t know they were being filmed until they were later approached by the team to get consent. (Each person featured in the final campaign was given a financial honorarium for appearing.)

She said N/A used a “light” film crew in order to do this, aiming to capture real moments rather than fabricate them. Rather than a glossy, idealized spot, Benoit said the brand wanted to show a slice of real life, electing not to use makeup on the subject, choosing final shots with uneven lighting and, of course, using consumers rather than actors.

When Benoit started at McDonald’s Canada, she said she payed close attention to social listening in order to take the temperature of how consumers feel about McDonald’s locally. She said she found the brand is understood as universal and that customers were impressed with the recent decor upgrades the company has done at its locations, but there was also a pre-conceived notion about it as a large, global brand, and she saw an opportunity to tell the brand’s story locally.

While McDonald’s worked with N/A on the campaign, Cossette remains its agency of record for creative. Moving forward, Benoit said the brand will use both agencies. Tribal Worldwide also worked on digital for the campaign, while OMD handled the media buy and Weber Shandwick managed PR.

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