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On June 5, McDonald’s announced the launch of the yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca website, a project designed to address common consumer questions about food quality at the chain. One of its latest instalments is a behind-the-scenes video answering a submission asking why the burgers photographed in McDonald’s ads look so much more appetizing than they do in real life. (Mike Segar/REUTERS)
On June 5, McDonald’s announced the launch of the yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca website, a project designed to address common consumer questions about food quality at the chain. One of its latest instalments is a behind-the-scenes video answering a submission asking why the burgers photographed in McDonald’s ads look so much more appetizing than they do in real life. (Mike Segar/REUTERS)

McDonald's marketing tries a transparent approach Add to ...

McDonald's Canada’s latest marketing campaign claims to pull back the curtain on the fast food chain's operations–and now that includes its advertising as well.

On June 5, McDonald's announced the launch of the yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca website, a project designed to address common consumer questions about food quality at the chain. One of its latest instalments is a behind-the-scenes video answering a submission asking why the burgers photographed in McDonald's ads look so much more appetizing than they do in real life.

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In the video, marketing director Hope Bagozzi buys a burger from a chain location, and takes it to Watt International's photo studio–which has been doing merchandising work for McDonald's Canada for roughly seven years. The video then shows a photo shoot, first capturing the burger as is and then explaining how the food is dressed up for the camera–from ketchup decoratively applied through a syringe-like tool to cheese retouching via Photoshop.

The campaign is aimed at marketing an image of transparency for McDonald's Corp.–and at using social media more effectively.

This is an area where the chain has taken a wrong turn before. In January, McDonald's in the U.S. attempted to create buzz for itself on one social network by asking Twitter users to tell their "#McDStories." Instead of talking about their love for the brand, the hashtag became a forum for people to talk about how disgusting they believe the food is.

"We know that there are questions out there, and that there are myths out there," McDonald's Canada chief marketing officer Joel Yashinsky said in an interview earlier this month. "We need to have a conversation with our customers, and social media allows us to do that."

Consumers can log on to the "Our Food. Your Questions" page through Facebook or Twitter to ask a question. It has been promoting the program through ads in English and French featuring a few initial questions and comments that are less than flattering, such as "it doesn't look like meat," and "is it really 100 per cent beef?"

People who have asked questions are given the option to show friends the answers by posting the company's responses on their Facebook or Twitter feeds. Mr. Yashinsky said that every question that does not include profanity will be posted on the site and answered by McDonald's.

The video showing the process behind McDonald's advertising, coincidentally was posted on the Internet during the week-long advertising festival in Cannes, and recalls a Canadian Cannes winner that attracted heaps of attention and awards a few years back. The "Evolution" commercial created by Ogilvy & Mather in Toronto for Dove won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2007 in both the Film and Cyber categories, and showed the way that a model could be completely transformed through makeup and Photoshop techniques.

The difference is that the Dove spot was aimed at the rest of the beauty industry, kicking off a marketing tactic by Dove to position it as separate from the pack of marketers who, it implied, were complicit in distorting ideals of beauty. In the McDonald's case, the much less artful, but still interesting behind-the-scenes video admits to some fancy photo work in an attempt to portray a corporate image of honesty.

"We’re evolving the transparency of our brand," Mr. Yashinsky said. "...[The Q&A with consumers] is a platform that will last forever. We’ll always develop that conversation with our customers."

Follow on Twitter: @susinsky

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