McDonald’s Strikes Gold By Leveraging Silver Screen & TV Magic


As Featured In


The latest McDonald’s campaign from Wieden + Kennedy New York may be filled with well-known celebrities like Ethan Hawke, Salma Hayak, Steve Carell, Lisa Kudrow and Chris Rock, but it’s the brand that’s the true star in this spot.  

“As Featured In” gives viewers a taste of the restaurant’s menu classics by repeatedly name-dropping McFlurry, McNuggets, Big Mac and more. But it’s the way in which it serves up this product messaging that’s perhaps the most impressive. The ad offers a satisfying dose of nostalgia with a 60-second greatest hits compilation of film and TV favorites that viewers are sure to recognize.  

Cultural references are a useful feature in advertising given that they appeal to the broad-beam attention of the right brain, as Orlando Wood explains in his books Lemon and Look out. Despite their effectiveness at connecting with audiences, the number of ads referencing other cultural works have been in decline over the past several decades. Wood notes the loss of this right-brained feature is “perhaps most worrying of all because it shows how self-referential and self-conscious modern-day advertising is…”.  

Thankfully, Wieden + Kennedy and McDonald’s understand the powerful impact that references to the past can have on how people feel. We see lots of surprise and happiness from viewers when surveying the general population with our Test Your Ad platform. Comments include “I had no idea McDonald’s was mentioned in so many movies,” “it was very entertaining” and “The nostalgia of all the old TV and movie scenes with McDonald’s references.” 

The result is a 3.7-Star Rating that positions McDonald’s well for long-term brand building. And, given the deliberate focus the ad gives to the brand name and the many tasty menu items, we see ‘Exceptional’ results for short-term sales potential (Spike Rating) and brand recognition. Spike is derived from the combination of speed of branding and emotional intensity, and McDonald’s hits highs in both categories by opening with a scene of the golden arches and mining pop culture for advertising gold.  

The ad’s short-term performance is great news for the restaurant chain, as the campaign coincides with the release of “As Featured In Meals” in more than 100 countries. There’s even a newly branded Sweet ‘N Sour Sauce that ties into the latest season of Marvel’s Loki.  

Perhaps “out with the old, in with the new” should instead be “use the old to make something new.” It’s the not-so-secret ingredient to advertising effectiveness. 

Create 5-star ads

The more people feel, the more they buy

The most effective ads boost sales and drive long-term growth. They do it by making people feel more - building positive associations with a recognisable brand. We predict sales and growth impacts by measuring emotion, letting you make ads that entertain for commercial gain.

Try Test Your Ad