On the bluest Monday of the year, restaurant brand McDonald’s and agency TBWA\NEBOKO were adamant to put a smile on the faces of people in the Netherlands. How, you may ask? By celebrating the burger chain’s low prices with smiles that adorned bus stop outdoor advertising, encouraging people to look twice and get their pearly whites out.
Over the years, McDonald’s has shown that they understand OOH advertising with many campaigns ranging from the USA to the UAE, India to Indonesia and everything in between. While the signature golden arches cause a reaction across the globe, this time we see the effect in the Netherlands as bus stops are adorned with smiles, followed up by the campaign being seen on TV, online, heard on the radio and mentioned on the McDonald's Netherlands App.
TBWA\NEBOKO’s creative director Erik Falke tells LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about the grey Blue Monday the campaign was released on, why the brand wanted to showcase its prices during this time and what they tried to capture with the campaign.
LBB> When did the idea of using smiles rather than products first get discussed?
Erik> McDonald’s wanted to point out their affordable products, offerings and app deals. But the client didn’t want to do just another product pricing campaign, they asked us to look at this brief from a brand point of view. Especially in the high inflationary times we find ourselves in.
LBB> How did the client react to the idea?
Erik> That was a funny moment. It was created during a SWAT session, as we call it at TBWA\NEBOKO, which is a week where we work on McDonald’s briefs only, co-creating with several teams, planners, designers, accounts, and the client. We made a few mockups of this idea and put them on the wall. As the client walked in the next morning, the images directly drew their attention, and they loved it. I guess at that moment, the concept was sold.
LBB> Can you tell us what the main thing you wanted to achieve with the OOH campaign was?
Erik> The campaign was launched on Blue Monday, which turned out to be a very grey Blue Monday. It was raining the whole day (Holland, you know…). We wanted to spread some positivity, something that puts a smile on people’s faces in this cold, wet period.
LBB> What was the process of choosing the people who were featured? How did you select the perfect smiles?
Erik> We worked together with CZAR Amsterdam as our production company for both photography and film direction, so we would have the same faces outdoors, as well as in the video. We loved the approach of photographer Maxime Cardol and director Sophie Dros. Their work has a beautiful mix of realness and rawness and we wanted to catch that feeling. No advertising models, but real people having a real moment of joy.
LBB> How long did it take to shoot all the photography for the campaign?
Erik> We shot it all in one day, TBWA\NEBOKO’s creative director Dennis Baars and art director Helen Fernando worked closely with Maxime and Sophie. In total, we shot and filmed 14 different ‘models’, on a rainy and cold day at the NDSM Wharf in Amsterdam. Not the ideal conditions, but they succeeded in capturing some heartwarming smiles.
LBB> All the images work cohesively together, what was the editing process like and how did you achieve a cohesive aesthetic?
Erik> Maxime made the first selects. Then, Dennis and Helen started working on cropping the photos. We wanted it to be all about the smile, with a glimpse of the eyes, because they shouldn’t draw too much attention and distract from the smiles. The close cropping worked in two ways. It made the smiles stand out more and it worked perfectly for the message: at McDonald’s you don’t buy just a burger, you buy yourself a little moment of joy.
LBB> How have people reacted to the images?
Erik> Well, to be honest, not everyone got it the first time. There was quite some social conversation going on about the ads, which is not a bad thing, I guess. There are so many outdoor campaigns out there that go unnoticed, so why not have an ad that ‘asks’ a bit more of your attention and imagination? Isn’t that what this business is all about?
LBB> Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Erik> McDonald’s is a brand that truly understands the power of the outdoor medium. Look at their Golden Arches along the roads. That’s more than a sign. It’s the beginning of a spark, of a craving, of a smile. It’s exactly that feeling that we wanted to capture with this campaign.