Oh, McDonald’s! Just when I think you’ve given up on your advertising campaign (has it been 10 or 12 years of I’m Lovin’ It!?) you turn us all completely on our heads with your new ad campaign.
The Hamburgler! Remember him? If you’re anywhere between the age of 0 and 30, I am sure you don’t. The Hamburgler was a member of Ronald McDonald’s creepy squad of quasi puppet/human creatures that showed up on the Saturday morning commercials. I think the following picture is the original crew, although when I googled it, there was a character named Early Birdie who is missing from this picture.
Now keep in mind that this was a 1970’s ad campaign, very likely in response to public television’s wildly popular muppets on Sesame Street. McDonald’s ad wonks saw how much little kids loved Kermit, Ernie & Bert and Big Bird, and made the logical move to attach french fries, shakes, hamburgers and soda to a crew of odd, slightly scary, and in absolutely no way endearing side-kicks to the already creepy clown, Ronald McDonald.
I was in elementary school, a little too old for Sesame Street, so when the cavalcade of slightly off, sickly sweet McDonaldland creature commercials started sucking up more TV time than the cartoons we watched, I took my parents advice and went outside. To do things like break bottles in the street, throw rocks and parked school busses, but that’s beside the point.
I do not actually know the impact these McMuppets had on a generations of kids but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t the characters that got kids into eating the fast food regularly. It was the play areas, McKids meals and cheap-cheap-cheap prices that got parents to take their kids to McDonalds.
I mean honestly, the first Ronald McDonald was a horror! And the clown…let me repeat that THE CLOWN he is today is still horrifying.
I have no idea why McDonald’s decided to roll out the Hamburgler. I am guessing that their “healthy” trend, food truck imagy chicken, and all-day breakfast isn’t gaining back any of the market share they are losing to local, organic, small market feel fast food places, so they are going back in for the kids. With this guy?
Now, the first thing the McDonald’s suits need to do is fire their ad team. How is the new Hamburgler in any way endearing to an adult who might let their kid eat what he’s selling? Trench coat! Mask! The whole Let’s keep this a secret! message. Holy Mother of God, I am relieved I don’t have little kids, and if I did, this guy would be my example of stranger danger!
This smacks of a last grasp at the public by an aging conglomerate whose best days are behind it. Competition, higher labor costs, the emergence of fast-casual over fast-food, and a global trend (Europe makes up 1/3 of McDonald’s sales) away from hamburgers due to the greater world focus on global health.
Millenials, the population born between 1982 and 2004, and makes up 1/4th of the world’s buying power, many of them raised on Happy Meals, are turning away from McDonald’s for a multitude of reasons: kale, mason jars, packaging that looks like artwork, fermented food, chill surroundings, hand-made, custom dishes, small plates, and sriracha. And no, McHoney-sriracha doesn’t quite cut it. And neither will the new Hamburgler.