Revenge of the tweens

Marketer: McDonald's Corporation; Jill Marchick, staff director, marketing U.S.A....
March 1, 1999

Marketer: McDonald’s Corporation; Jill Marchick, staff director, marketing U.S.A.

Agency: Leo Burnett U.S.A., Chicago; Lisa Bennett, senior VP/managing creative director; Chris Rossiter, VP/senior producer; Steve Simoncic, assistant creative director/writer (Off to the Races); Anne Pazen, assistant creative director/art director (Off to the Races); Todd Lohrenz, VP/writer (Kids Table)

Spot Shop: RNA-Los Angeles, California; Francis Lawrence, director; Patricia Judice, executive producer; Lynn Zekanis, producer

Post: Brass Knuckles-Venice, California; Chris Hafner, editor

Markets: U.S. national (broadcast and cable)

The idea: Use humor to show a national tween audience of kids ages eight to 12 that McDonald’s understands them and has something for them.

The campaign: A pool of three new commercials for the McDonald’s McWorld campaign. Off to the Races (30 seconds, 15 seconds) and Kids Table (15 seconds) begin airing across the U.S. this month. Do Over (15 seconds) will follow at a later date.

The strategy:

And they’re off. A wild-eyed troupe of teachers tear out of the starting gate, clawing madly at each other as they chase a Big Mac like greyhounds after a rabbit. The school nurse elbows the lunch lady, who wobbles and hits the dirt. The tweens in the stands go wild.

This is Off to the Races, one of three new spots for the McWorld campaign. Airing off and on since 1993, the campaign is distinguished by portrayals of the perfect world from a kid’s point of view, the McWorld logo, and the tag line, ‘Hey, it could happen.’ The latest pool follows the award-winning trio Dentist, Microwave and Pop Quiz, but departs from the earlier spots in two significant ways.

The first difference is that the new spots remove the negative images (going to the dentist, the yucky microwave dinner, etc.) that began the previous pool, and instead present a positive situation for kids throughout.

Although, thanks to McDonald’s, each of the situations in the previous trio had a happy ending, Lisa Bennett, senior VP and managing creative director at Leo Burnett, says there was some concern that younger kids in the target audience might not get it. For instance, the clinical setting of the

dentist spot could still evoke apprehension. Thus, Off to the Races is designed make kids laugh from the moment the race call sounds, and Kids Table, which shows five kids sitting down to McDonald’s fare in the living room, while the parents are relegated to a rickety card table, hits kids with the role-reversal gag right from the start.

The second departure is to make sure that kids, along with being entertained, get the McDonald’s message. This was done by making the McWorld logo more prominent and focusing more on the food. Whereas in former spots, the situations were set up by a kid saying, ‘If kids like me ran the world…,’ the new spots show a CGI McWorld globe, then zoom in to a whimsical slice of life in this kid-run parallel universe. The new introduction is more clever, gives kids more credit for grasping the situation and focuses more on the brand. Food is also more prominent throughout, with shots of kids munching away in Off to the Races and surreal towering platters of nosh in Kids Table. As Bennett notes, ‘It’s almost like the food serves as a catalyst to launch them into these fantasy situations.’

Overall, the McWorld tween spots are part of a larger ‘cradle-to-college’ strategy developed by Leo Burnett a few years ago, which Bennett says is ‘basically about how you stay relevant to kids throughout all of the stages of their lives.’ With marketing efforts targeting each stage of development, from Happy Meals to tween premiums to the adult fare, the goal is to latch onto customers early and keep them coming back.

Campaign Spotlight is a regular KidScreen feature focusing on kid ad/promo strategy. If you would like to submit a campaign, please contact Duncan Hood at 416-408-2300 or

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