January 16, 2015

Golden Globes and Golden Arches

Ah, the Golden Globes. What better sign of the winter doldrums than the genuine excitement we show this second-rate glitter? Any port in a storm – and any tentpole in January – will do.

That said, something extraordinary happened at this year’s awards: During my annual* Golden Globes Viewing Party**, I found myself captivated by an ad from a normally un-captivating brand: McDonald’s.

You may know the one I’m talking about: It depicts messages on the restaurant’s signs during times of struggle, celebration, and everything in between, set to a heartstring-tugging tune. Messages run the gamut from birth announcements to “We Remember 9/11” and “Boston Strong,” all under the glow of the golden arches.

Not everyone was a fan, of course. Many immediately took to Twitter to call the ad hypocritical, exploitative, or tasteless for using scourges like cancer, tornadoes, and terrorism to sell hamburgers. And there’s no doubt about it: When a brand takes out an expensive TV spot, they are selling us something. This appeal to our hearts is nothing more than an effort to boost McDonalds’ flagging bottom line.

But I’ll go out on a limb and say I’m lovin’ it.***

Brands like McDonald’s are a part of our lives, and the “signs” ad is a reminder of when that can feel good, rather than clumsy or invasive. The messages on the signs collected over the years were made by real people working at these restaurants, and reflect a genuine connection with the community they serve. You can be cynical about the cleverness of this ad itself, but the source material and sentiment is real and touching.

As a result, I will serve Big Macs at next year’s Viewing Party.****

*On-again off-again for about three years.

**Eating takeout on my couch with my phone on silent.


****No I won’t, McDonald’s is kind of gross.