By Heather Taylor
As 2016 comes to a close, McDonald’s — or more specifically, McDonald’s UK – has teamed up alongside Amazon and Blippar to launch its “biggest ever Christmas campaign.” Conceptualized by Leo Burnett London, the campaign showcases McDonald’s as a hub where everyone from all walks of life can join together for good times.
We’ll share more about this campaign later. For every moment leading up to this one, let’s reminisce about McDonald’s ads from decades gone by that put a smile on our face. Tis the season to join old friends Ronald McDonald, Grimace, Birdie, and many more with a look back at six holiday commercials that are the hamburger chain’s most delightful, memorable, and treasured by all ages.
In the 1980s, Ronald McDonald and his McDonaldland pals starred in a commercial spot where they faced an unusual weather predicament. Everyone’s bundled up and ready for a sleigh ride to McDonald’s, but Grimace doesn’t see any snow. What now?
With a little magical help from Ronald, Grimace’s frown turns into an ear-to-ear grin as it begins to snow. The gang heads to McDonald’s in a two-horse open sleigh with the message that every journey to McDonald’s is much more fun when you’re together with friends.
“One winter’s eve, a falling star landed in McDonaldland…”
When a falling star suddenly appears in McDonaldland, Birdie the Early Bird and Grimace want to give it to Ronald as a present. However, Ronald’s gift can’t twinkle on land as much as it can in the evening sky. Ronald recognizes the well-meaning gesture, but also knows that the star cannot belong to him alone.
In this 1988 commercial, Ronald, Birdie, and Grimace learn the true meaning of sharing gifts with others. It is a gesture that is not forgotten either. As they set the star free in the sky for everyone to see, the star is happy to twinkle and glow again — and thankful for new friends made in McDonaldland.
It wouldn’t be the holidays without ice-skating! Everyone joins Ronald on the ice in this 1991 spot from children to animated woodland friends. However, one little boy slips and slides as he struggles to keep up with his friends. He stays by the sidelines, sad and unsure of himself until Ronald skates over to bring him back to everyone else. Whether new at skating or a pro, the message here is crystal clear: nobody gets forgotten about or left behind during the holidays.
As this 1994 commercial begins, a little girl named Lindsay is trekking through the snow with a small suitcase. She comes across Ronald McDonald building a snowman and admits to him that she wants to run away to McDonaldland because everyone says she’s too little.
Ronald listens thoughtfully and gently reminds Lindsay of all the great things she would be leaving behind. He dribbles a mound of snow to symbolize the basketball hoop over her garage and blows on icicles to capture the sound of her wind chimes. If Lindsay went to McDonaldland, she couldn’t help plan for her dad’s birthday party or feed the goldfish. She decides to return home to the family and creature comforts awaiting her. As Lindsay runs off, happy with her decision, Ronald waves goodbye – and so does the snowman.
Opening with a dreamy Edward Scissorhands-esque score in the background, this 1990s commercial centers around the adventures of a solitary young girl building a snowman alone.
With his scarf and fuzzy red nose, her snowman looks a lot like Ronald McDonald who suddenly appears to join her. He muses that her snowman is missing something and blows a pile of sparkling white snow next to her snowman. It’s a smaller version of the snowman the little girl built — a friend.
Paul Kramer, CEO of Catapult Marketing, has long been a fan of this spot and its simple message of spending time with people who make you smile. “Given how much cynicism surrounds marketing and advertising today, it is so reassuring to look back on this commercial and its effortless authenticity. It subtly communicates the values of the McDonald’s brand and embodies the spirit of the holidays by capturing a magical moment of friendship with a young girl playing in the snow. It is genuine, warm and innocent.”
Meet Juliette. She’s a wooden doll sold in the window of a toy store looking for a home. However, Juliette discovers that she may have already found it. Across the street from the shop is a McDonald’s filled with excited, happy people enjoying burgers and coffee together. As another year passes, Juliette finally makes a mad dash to the restaurant on Christmas Eve where she’s surrounded by warmth and happiness. She even finds her mate, an action figure in a shopping bag, and decides to head home with him, waving goodbye to the shopkeeper at the store.
With a little 3D printing, CGI, puppeteering, and painted facial details done by hand on her face, Leo Burnett London brings Juliette to life as a quietly friendly new addition to the McDonald’s icon canon. And while she may not be one of the traditional McDonaldland mascots, her red hair instantly brings to mind fond memories of the infamous Ronald while creating new ones of her own.