McDonald’s raises eyebrows and scoops TV creativity award

The “Raise your arches” TV spot is the January/February Thinkboxes winner

McDonald’s raises eyebrows and scoops TV creativity award

A simple idea brilliantly realised has won McDonald’s the latest Thinkboxes award for TV creativity with “Raise your arches” – a hero spot in a wider campaign that instead of featuring restaurants or food relies on quirky humour and the power of suggestion.

“The ambition for the campaign was to drive brand love by elevating our previously established affinity platform “Fancy a McDonald’s?” to another level,” says McDonald’s head of brand marketing Hannah Pain.

As such, there was only one choice when it came to which medium should take the lead.

“TV is an enduringly powerful medium to talk to a huge proportion of our audience,” Pain says. “It is one of the best channels for driving trust and love – two of the most important metrics for our brand – and is a central part of all of our big brand campaigns.”

The idea was born from extensive research by Leo Burnett’s strategy team.

“Lots of McDonald’s customers mentioned ‘the look’ – when you’re able to signal going for a cheeky McDonald’s without saying a word,” Gareth Butters, creative director at Leo Burnett, explains.

“From this I made the link between the double eyebrow raise and McDonald’s famous golden arches. Then I had to check it hadn’t been done before. Which it thankfully hadn’t – phew!”

The idea was to show a whole office building marching to McDonald’s for lunch after one worker raises their arches – a universal invitation to join to grab a Maccies – set to the iconic 80s track Oh yeah! by Yello.

The question was: how? To bring the idea to life, two things were key: the right director and great casting.

“Being a huge film nerd, Edgar (Wright) has always been one of my director idols,” says Butters. “When we had a script that had an absolute 80s banger, choreography and crammed full of fun, then there literally was nobody better suited.”

With the idea signed off and Wright on board, the team set about casting for people with great eyebrow craft.

Intensive rehearsals then followed to nail the choreography with the two main protagonists and core cast ahead of the shoot, which took place in an abandoned office with no air conditioning on one of the hottest days of the year.

“Stick to the plan. Keep it simple. Trust the process,” are Butters’ top tips for getting a great idea from script to screen, and what ensured this particular production went off without a hitch.

“Everything was meticulously planned; everyone knew what they were doing, and we stringently followed the animatic that Edgar created,” he explains. “Listening to Oh yeah! on loop 843 times in extreme heat did feel a little challenging. But to be honest, that’s the good stuff I’ll always remember.”

The ad launched on January 13, preceded by a week of teaser content on multiple touchpoints featuring the famous Golden Arches cryptically cropped.

Other channels included tactical outdoor, social content, bespoke filters across Instagram and Snapchat, influencer activity and a two-week sales promotion giving customers a new offer each day via the McDonald’s app.

“The response has been brilliant,” says Pain. “We’ve seen very high engagement and conversation around the spot. People have really scrutinised each detail, with a range of (at times very imaginative) theories around some of the subtle branding cues throughout the spot!”

Initial research shows the campaign has been especially popular with frequent customers, she notes, adding that, while it’s too early to understand business impact (commercial data and brand love), sentiment so far is very encouraging.

“I love that, at its heart, the ad portrays a moment of release and feel-good in a world that can otherwise feel quite serious,” Pain continues. “To me, that feels spot on for McDonald’s’ role in our customers’ lives at the moment.”

Second in the January/February Thinkboxes was "The sweet sound of investing" by Pablo for AJ Bell. “Ground dog day” by VCCP for Dogs Trust was third. Also shortlisted were “Ribbon dancer” by M&C Saatchi for NHS England and “Regret: Toby” by Pablo for Secret Escapes.


Agency: Leo Burnett

Creative team: Gareth Butters, creative director

Client: Hannah Pain

Production company: Moxie Pictures

Director: Edgar Wright

The Thinkboxes, in association with Campaign, are the only bi-monthly awards that celebrate the UK’s world-beating TV ad creativity, in all its forms. They are judged by the Thinkbox Academy – advertising and marketing luminaries who have been involved in award-winning creative work for TV.

Want to see more great work? Head to the Thinkboxes hub

Thinkbox is the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, in all its forms. Its shareholders are Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media and UKTV. Thinkbox works with the marketing community with a single ambition: to help advertisers get the best out of today’s TV.


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