McDonald’s celebrates Britain’s inner child with festive spot

The campaign marks fourth year of #ReindeerReady brand positioning.

McDonald’s Christmas campaign is encouraging the British public to embrace their inner child this festive season.

Created by Leo Burnett, “Inner child” follows an animated teenager (Tom) as he begrudgingly wades through Christmas traditions with his mum, including hanging decorations and visiting a Christmas market.

However, after the pair stop by McDonald’s to pick up some Reindeer Treats (otherwise known as carrots), Tom finally listens to his inner child and gets into the Christmas spirit. 

Launching on Sunday (15 November) during I’m a Celebrity on ITV, alongside video on demand and social activity, the work was created by Steph Ellis and Rory Hall, and directed by Againstallodds through Passion Pictures. Media is handled by OMD.

McDonald’s is also set to release 10-second teaser films throughout the weekend during The Voice and The Chase

“I think this will be our best Christmas ad ever. I know I'm biased, but it's incredible,” Michelle Graham-Clare, vice-president of food and marketing, McDonald’s UK and Ireland, told Campaign.

“Our role at Christmas is not the big day – it's those small moments, those journeys to buy presents, popping out to the cinema as a family and nipping in McDonald's and having some family magic together.” 

Graham-Clare said that McDonald’s previously had a different idea for its Christmas spot, which featured a larger group of people as they came together for the holidays.

However, the brand changed its approach in favour of “The inner child”, with the song Forever Young already having been suggested as the spot’s soundtrack.

Alongside the campaign, Becky Hill’s rendition of Forever Young is due to be released as a single on 15 November, with 10p from every download going to food redistribution charity FareShare.

The fast-food brand has also partnered FareShare to provide five million meals to families in need.

“No matter what age you are, you know, everyone can relate to feeling really young inside, and Christmas more than anything does that to you – especially the rituals of putting carrots out at Christmas and leaving them out for Rudolph and his pals,” Graham-Clare said.

"It's just a really special moment in Britain culturally that everyone can relate to.”

Last year’s Christmas ad "Archie the reindeer" followed a young girl and her pet “reindeer” as they celebrated the festive season.

At the time, Campaign drew similarities between the ad and John Lewis’ traditionally celebrated festive works.

However, Graham-Clare said that this year’s ad proves that McDonald’s has created its own space in the sphere of Christmas advertising. 

“John Lewis owns Christmas, and to even be compared with them and their advertising is beautiful,” she began.

“They've got a formula that works perfectly for them, but I do like to think that we're carving out our own space as McDonald's – it's not a cookie cutter approach.”

Graham-Clare continued: “John Lewis is the fabric of Britain, but McDonald's is also the fabric of Britain.”

The marketer also noted that Christmas is the only time of year when Brits discuss advertising to a significant extent, in what she referred to as a “domestic Gogglebox”.

McDonald’s campaign follows the carrot-centric “#ReindeerReady” brand positioning which has been a staple of the brand’s Christmas ads since 2017.

Chaka Sobhani, chief creative officer of Leo Burnett, said the campaign was inspired by the resilience shown by the British public during the coronavirus pandemic.

“At the beginning [of the pandemic] we all thought this was going to be quite a serious year, and potentially we would have to be a bit more informative and sombre, but what was so heartwarming – much like the rainbows in the window and, clapping at eight o'clock on a Thursday – was this incredible demonstration of hope and love. 

“I'm not getting all Oprah, by the way, but the incredible human spirit was the big thing around where we ended up.”

Sobhani continued: “We can push on hope, and we can push on what people will potentially need which is to just to feel love, simply put.”

In July, McDonald’s celebrated its return to the high street with a feelgood spot, "Welcome back", set to Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison and bringing an end to the fast-food chain’s marketing pause.

The campaign was inspired by the upwards of 15,000 requests from members of the public urging the company to bring back the Big Mac following the closure of all McDonald’s restaurants.

Sobhani risked jinxing the entire world by suggesting that “we're not going to have any more surprises, as we did in 2020”.

“The challenge every single year is to better the one before,” she said.

“We had animation last year, we had animation this year, who knows where we go next year – that's the exciting thing.”