McDonald’s latest commercial: Genius or Tacky?

I was watching the Golden Globes on Sunday night when this ad came on. I will admit that I was drawn to it and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. However, I do think I was so mesmerized by the ad because of the children singing. As soon as the ad was done my roommate [A health sciences major] said “There’s no way those are all real. McDonald’s would not say “Pray” on one of their signs”. She said exactly what I was thinking: there’s no way McDonald’s would have their employees crawl on a ladder up to their sign in the middle of a flood and write a pray for us type of message – it is both politically incorrect and beside the point when a town is dealing with a tragedy. While that was my main problem with the ad, internet outrage broke out over some of the other imagery that the signs painted.


The commercial provoked strong reactions, with some saying they were moved by it and others saying it was tacky for a company to use tragic events to polish its image. Most of the national criticism of this ad was because the signs featured references to 9/11, the Boston Bombing and the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster which people find insensitive.

Recently McDonald’s has been trying to refresh their brand after falling sales the past two years. They have been focusing on the “lovin it” part of their “I’m loving it” slogan. A previous ad in this series was a cartoon ad in which long standing enemies like Batman and the Joker and Bears/Packer fans become friends and love each other. This new Signs ad was meant to illustrate the role that “beloved” McDonald’s restaurants play in communities. I think that McDonald’s trying to humanize their huge corporation is a good thing but they should not be doing it by capitalizing on tragedies that are still very fresh wounds for many Americans. Regardless of what your personal opinion of the ad is, McDonald’s can chalk it up to a win as they are getting tons of free publicity from it because everyone is arguing about it.

Taco Bell goes Black

emily_gutknecht_marketing Facebook TBell

Last week as part of the launch of its new app, Taco Bell blacked out its social- media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even its website. The only thing these sites had posted was the link to download the app. With the release of this app Taco Bell is the first fast-food chain to offer mobile payment and ordering in the restaurants and in drive-thrus. Users can also select specific ingredients for their food in a way they previously weren’t able to, according to a statement. As of now these social media pages are all still blacked out. The blackout clearly worked because Taco Bell announced that just 24 hours after launch 75 percent of all stores already had processed a mobile order.

This stunt was well done by Taco Bell. As a huge company with a multi-faceted social media presence and millions of followers, something like this was sure to be noticed. The day after the blackout Taco Bell began using sponsored tweets to push people towards their blacked out sites (which is a little deceptive since their point was to not be on social media and instead be on the app, but I rest my case). I think if it were a smaller company nobody would have cared because they wouldn’t have even noticed. I especially like what they did with their Instagram – the announcement took up nine picture slots and they took a little over a day to put it all together, slowly adding one picture at a time so people could piece together the message.


Now that Taco Bell has people’s attention, it’s important to pay attention to what they will do next. People are watching their pages with bated breath waiting to see what will happen so if Taco Bell continues with the blackout it will be a wasted opportunity for them. I do not think it’s a very effective long term strategy to keep everything black because social media is an ever evolving platform and that is constantly growing and Taco Bell needs to keep up with that. They’re pushing it a little bit by leaving the accounts blacked out for six days now because those followers who have not downloaded the app will soon get bored with Taco Bell’s lack of activity on social media.

Now taking bets on when Taco Bell will come back to social media.