When Luis Miguel Messianu was named DDB global chief creative officer for McDonald’s in April, he was stepping into a new role but one that involved far from uncharted waters.
The founder and chairman of Alma DDB (a role that he still holds alongside his new one) has deep connections with the Golden Arches. Luis Miguel was the creative director at the agency that first introduced McDonald’s to Mexico and Alma DDB has been the Hispanic agency of record in the US since 1994, shortly after he founded the agency.
“The reality is that I wasn’t looking for it,” Luis Miguel tells me during a chat at the Palais in Cannes. “I wasn’t expecting it. But over the years I’ve been helping DDB with McDonald’s. For example, I helped DDB pitch the McDonald’s accounts in Central America and Mexico and in both cases we won.”
When asked about the reasoning behind DDB’s need for such a focused role on what is one of its biggest accounts, Luis Miguel is quick to praise DDB’s global McDonald’s team, which has also been supported creatively by DDB’s global CCO Ari Weiss. “McDonald's is a creative account,” he says. “To me, it is one of the brands that truly embodies the commitment to creativity, and as such, it was important to bring in this position. It was normally under the responsibility of the global CCO, but being the second largest and probably the most high maintenance account of the network – not that Volkswagen isn't -- really required someone focused and dedicated. Someone that really loves the brand, understands it, and wants to take it to the next level.”
Alongside countless different aspects and ambitions, Luis Miguel has one clear vision for his role: to make McDonald’s Advertiser of the Year in Cannes by 2025, an honour it last received back in 2014. “Since then – and with no candour because this is to do with all networks that work with the brand, not just DDB – they have done great work, but not creative work that wins here at Cannes. When I started in this business many moons ago, McDonald’s was the dream account. It was the Nike or Apple of my time.”
McDonald’s is consistently ranked as the most effective brand in the world by WARC
but Luis Miguel thinks that some of its creative edge has been lost due to a number of factors, such as McDonald’s unique setup as both a brand and a retailer. “A lot of the world is focused on the work,” he says. ”Not that you can’t be creative on the retail aspect but it’s a little bit harder, the budgets are more limited. The bulk of McDonald’s work is dedicated to value and food, and very little is dedicated to affinity, trust and brand building - and that’s normally when you have better chances. So I’m going to try and change that. I'm trying to build a creative community within DDB to bring back the love, reignite the flame and look for opportunities in terms of how the range of the brand can be expanded. My goal and my vision is that McDonald’s will be Advertiser of the Year before 2025.”
To achieve that, Luis Miguel has what he likes to call a “very simple formula”, one that he has applied at Alma for 27 years. It’s about pride, fun and money – in that strict order. “If you’re proud of the work that you’re putting out, then the clients feel proud, they have a sense of ownership and belonging,” he says. “If you create a fun environment, in terms of interaction with the client and internally you’re feeling good and breathing the right atmosphere, the results normally come.
“It’s about fame and fortune,” Luis Miguel adds. “There’s been a lot of talk about bravery but I think that bravery is a conduit to fame and fortune on behalf of your brands, clients and eventually as an agency.”
He’ll also be scoping out the unique, local stories of entrepreneurship that make up the bulk of the McDonald’s family. If you think of McDonald’s, it’s easy to think of a big, global corporation. While the brand is very much that, it’s easy to forget that it’s really made of local franchisees, each one of them with their own, potentially worth telling story. “It’s huge, it’s big. But it’s also small and local. If you live in the US, most people have a McDonald’s less than one mile from where they live. It’s a familiar face and I think that applies to the rest of the world. In that sense, if we manage to combine the power and magnitude of this brand with proximity, familiarity and a sense of community, I think we’ll find those moments. We need to find the modern interpretation of the McDonald’s experience.”
But Luis Miguel is right – McDonald’s is big and huge, it’s one of the world’s best known global corporations. That means it has the power and ability to play a role, for better or worse, in social issues such as sustainability and the cost of living crisis that is affecting much of the world at the moment or at least will in the not too distant future. “The other day I checked the stocks and everything was in red, except for McDonald's. I took a screen grab, sent it to Dave [Kissel, global brand director for McDonald’s at DDB] and said that this is a value strategy and a different way of looking at things. Obviously, this is more for Wall Street and for shareholders, but I think it applies to consumers and customers. The challenge is how we make value relevant and meaningful, and how we find an emotional overlay for value. 'Cheap' is a word that makes a lot of people in the McDonald's universe a little bit nervous. If you ask any McDonald's executive, they will say, 'it's not cheap, it's good value'. What we need to find is how we translate that emotional value to a solution that's timely and timeless?”
Regarding sustainability, Luis Miguel actually spent a good chunk of his time at Cannes Lions judging the Sustainable Development Goals Lions (SDG), which he believes isn’t just about sustainability – it’s about inequality, prosperity and people. “I think sustainability as an umbrella has many different ramifications and I think that McDonald’s has a very unique opportunity in terms of their responsibility and the muscle of this corporation. Of course, brand fit needs to be a criteria – for example, I think Corona has done a good job taking water as an element.
“One of my areas of exploration as I bed into this job is completely related to sustainability solutions in terms of packaging, how we serve the food, how we treat people in terms of inequalities and also how our packaging can make a difference for the planet. It’s definitely one of my top priorities.”
Other areas of focus for Luis Miguel are employment, things like the metaverse and web3, and embedding technology into creativity in a way that makes purpose almost undetectable. It was work like this that he saw win big in SDG, Glass, Titanium and even Film this year and it all feeds into his notion that 2022 marked the beginning of Cannes Lions as the ‘festival of intersections’ (something which he wrote about in greater length for LBB prior to the festival
“I’m trying to bring some fun,” he says of his plans for the rest of the year in his new role. “And it starts by building a community and creative alliances and trying to identify different creative departments that can really work with me and support me. I’m going to try to open doors and remove a little of the baggage that some of the departments have. I’m taking this year as a year of discovery, of listening, analysing and even deciding if a 50/50 percentage split between my job at Alma and this makes sense.
“Luckily on the Alma side Isaac [Mizrahi, CEO] and Alvar [Suñol, CCO] are really stepping up and pushing, but I’m still involved with some specific projects and clients. The McDonald’s job is a full-time job. I’m currently working with Hong Kong on a project. I’m working with France on something that I’ve brought in Poland, Mexico and Colombia to work on. I’m working with Finland on a project and something more global with lots of different players. So it’s quite a bit on the plate.
“I am also opening an avenue for proactive ideas. The idea is that we’ll meet with Morgan Flatley, the global CMO of McDonald’s, and the team on a quarterly basis to review work but also look forward and see what’s coming.”
The industry will be waiting to find out.