I first caught wind of this video through my local news. (Yes, I still watch, but don’t ask why). The story felt like a puff piece. I can’t find that original news piece, but in a nutshell the anchor posed a pretty universal question for anyone who has ever seen a McDonalds ad and then eaten a McDonalds burger. “Why,” he wanted to know, “is there such a dramatic difference between the burger in the ad and the burger you get in the store?”
The answer shouldn’t surprise anyone. Art directors!
But when I found the 5-minute McDonalds YouTube clip, I just had to tip my hat to the golden arches. You see, brands are becoming content companies. Most brands are doing a pretty poor job, but McDonalds isn’t one of them.
Why this video works:
- The prompt comes for a real person, which makes the subject matter feel genuine. We’ve all thought about the difference in appearance between the ad and the story. Most of us know why, and I don’t think we’d need to ask. But in this case, it seems like a good question because it comes from a kid.
- The video feels transparent. When a brand makes an ad, it doesn’t need to feel transparent because we know it’s an ad. We’re being sold something, and that’s fine. But when a brand publishes content, transparency takes on a new meaning and importance. Now, I don’t think anyone would insist that McDonalds examine itself with the integrity of an investigative news unit, but if it’s going to work as content, the video needs to feel like it takes at least the most basic questions into account. In this case, McDonalds wins big on the transparency front because the video is literally a behind-the-scenes look at the making of an ad, something that would have been unheard of a few years ago. Are the burgers in the ads made with all the same ingredients? You bet. Is the side-by-side comparison as good as it can be? Yes it is. These and other questions are anticipated and answered by the McDonalds spokeswoman.
- This video is newsworthy. Ok, maybe newsworthy is a bit strong. I personally think local news directors shouldn’t run stories like this because, well, they’re not news. But in the context of what local news is today, this video is good fodder for those puff pieces in the second half of the broadcast. The report I saw mentioned the kid who asked the question and then cut up clips of the McDonalds spokeswoman, the file footage from the video, and a man-on-the-street report the station did, and – whala! – they have a news story.
One interesting choice McDonalds made was to disable comments. The video was clearly well-recieved by YouTube viewers, with more than 5 million views and likes to dislikes coming in at 7:1. But no comments. Honestly, I’m not sure if that’s a bad strategy. But it is interesting. Of course, McDonalds promoted the video through its Facebook page, which might just be a better place to field comments, respond, and delete barbs from trolls and haters.