The Spot: Love Under the Arches

DDB achieves a timeless quality with its latest McDonald's ad, which seamlessly merges product and brand

Headshot of Tim Nudd

IDEA: McDonald's has been airing ads lately about its suppliers and the quality of their ingredients. But the fast-food chain's core advertising theme remains simple storytelling inside its restaurants. For a new spot that broke on the Oscars, DDB Chicago produced a script that tells a timeless tale of young love, with a twist, and seamlessly merges product and narrative. "One of the big things about the McDonald's campaign is moments everyone can relate to, moments you remember from your childhood that have a special place in your heart," said Ewan Paterson, the agency's chief creative officer. "It's about capturing those moments." The new spot does this in a deceptively simple way and with a magical visual feel that, with the story, feels almost timeless—making it one of the most quintessential McDonald's spots in years.

COPYWRITING: Paterson and group creative director Bill Cimino went through some 100 scripts before selecting this one. A girl, sitting with her friend, pines for a boy on the other side of the restaurant. She plays the classic "He loves me/He loves me not" game, eating French fries instead of plucking flower petals. When she gets down to the last fry, the boy has disappeared. "He loves me not," she says sadly. Then the boy appears out of nowhere and offers her his last fry. "He loves me!" the thrilled girl mouths silently to her friend as the boy smiles and walks off. "It's about a product—McDonald's fries—but it's also about the experience of McDonald's as well," said Paterson. "I love that it sells the product and the brand at the same time, which I think the best ads do." The spot ends with a female voiceover saying "The simple joy of McDonald's," the longtime "I'm lovin' it" tagline and McDonald's logo appearing on screen.

ART DIRECTION: The spot has a cinematic sheen, taking an intimate story and elevating it. The director, Rocky Morton, brought filmic touches to the camera angles, lighting and details of the narrative—he shot from each protagonist's POV; framed one shot of the boy behind glass, giving him a pensive look; and told the actor to leave his pencil on the counter when he disappeared. "It's just one of those things directors come up with," said Paterson. "Leaving something behind says more than if there's nothing there." The palette is all reds and yellows—the rich warmth of McDonald's brand colors.

FILMING: The shoot took one day at a McDonald's in Los Angeles where DDB films many of its spots.

TALENT: The young actors skillfully project vulnerability and daring at the same time. The boy is good looking, but not overly so. "The story is told through her, so we had to communicate that this was an emotional, nervous thing for him, too," said Paterson. The actors also kept the piece from getting too sappy. "We wanted it to be lovely and beautiful and touch everyone's heart, but we didn't want it to be saccharine," he said. "We needed the right performances."

SOUND: The poppy music is from the movie The Brothers Bloom. "We wanted something that wouldn't overtake the ad," said Paterson. "It's a very intimate story, and if you put something very big on it, you could flatten the action. At the same time, we wanted something noticeable. So, we had to find a balance." There is some sound design, which was muted at the moment of the teens' connection—another filmic touch.

MEDIA: The spot hasn't aired since the Oscars but will return soon for a flight on national broadcast and cable.



Client – McDonald's

Neil Golden – Senior VP, Chief Marketing Officer – U.S.

Marlena Peleo – Lazar VP, Chief Creative Officer – U.S.

Agency – DDB, Chicago

Ewan Peterson – Chief Creative Officer

Bill Cimino – Executive Creative Director

Tim Souers – Creative Director

Diane Jackson – Executive Director of Integrated Production

Liat Ebersohl – Executive Producer

Luke LiManni – Associate Producer

Kelly Lenthe – Production Manager

Linda Zufall – Technical Advisor

Todd Nonken – Integrated Brand Leader

Tess Maurici – Account Manager

Eric Johnson – Executive Producer of Music and Integration

Production Company – MJZ

Rocky Morton – Director

Scott Howard – Executive Producer

Helen Hollien – Producer

Trina McElroy – Production Supervisor

Editorial – Whitehouse Post

Rick Lawley – Editor

Sue Dawson – Producer

Post-Production – The Filmworks Club

Michael Mazur – Colorist

Rob Churchill – Effects Editor

Lisa Long – Executive Producer

Music from the movie The Brothers Bloom

Composer – Nathan Johnson

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.