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Ovation: The Controversial McDonald’s “Signs” Commercial.


ArchesLast weekend, I found myself inside a recently-remodeled McDonald’s in my small town.  While I’ll admit to frequenting its drive-thru window in the past, it’s not too often that I go inside to eat as it was , historically, quite loud and “kid-centric”.  The new interior design of the new restaurant is, surprisingly, adult in nature and reminds me more of a Starbucks than a burger joint.  Customers can no longer see the goings-on behind the counter, which is nice, and the seating is arranged in small groups with lots of electrical plugs as if guests are encouraged to enjoy their free wi-fi and make feel more at home while they eat.  Most importantly, I was pleased that they were able to work around and old tree near the entrance and they kept the existing sign that can be seen from the nearby interstate.

Local McDonald’s franchise owners are allowed to put whatever message they want in the little yellow box beneath the golden arches on the sign outside their restaurant (ours said “Drive-Thru Open During Remodel” for weeks) and local owners have been using them to spread messages to their communities for years.  Recently, McDonald’s introduced a new commercial that features a montage of these signs and some of the heartfelt messages that have appeared on them.

The ad campaign, which includes a children’s choir singing a version of “Carry On”, is drawing controversy from critics who accuse the fast food giant of profiting from disasters including 911, hurricanes, bombings and floods.

Executives from McDonald’s have stated that the ads were intended to show the company’s history in local communities and that’s how I see it.  I like the commercial.  I see it as an attempt to be about more than burgers and Happy Meals.  The message of “We’ve been there with you” isn’t a bad one … it’s a new and different approach to marketing fast food that people are finally starting to understand is really not very good for them.

It could also be the smartest marketing move we’ve seen in a long time.

See the stories behind the signs at


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From → Ovations

  1. I like it and was a little surprised by the backlash. Yes, they do need to pay better wages. The entire industry is guilty of paying too little, with a few exceptions. What I liked is these franchise owners are local business people. That was the purpose of the ads. So, I thought they were good overall. I did not think they were selling burgers off tragedies.


  2. I get a little ‘ick’ factor from the seemingly celebrated horrific events splashed between birthday and anniversary signs. Something about it doesn’t sit well with me, perhaps the using of 9/11 to sell a burger?


    • That’s why it’s so controversial. You either see it like that or you don’t. You either think it’s sweet or it’s icky. There doesn’t seem to be many in between.


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