Waxing Unpoetic

Things get hairy for McDonald’s in DDB’s dollar-menu ads

Boundaries, people, boundaries! There I was, watching the last piece of pure family entertainment left in America, Who Wants to Marry My Dad, in which the adult kids watch on a TV screen as their shaven-headed dad, Don, makes out with a bevy of available ladies (most of whom are “in love” with him within about 30 seconds of the cameras rolling), when a lightning-fast, 15-second spot interrupted this romantic reverie.

“To afford a double cheeseburger from the McDonald’s dollar menu,” a male announcer says (as we see a rich, dreamy shot of said burger, with the cheesed-up second patty being dropped on the first), “this is how much work a bikini waxer has to do.” Suddenly, a fierce-looking woman in a white coat appears, standing in front of a big surgical light and a pot of wax. She moves her large, sturdy arm in a single, violent motion. We hear a savage “rrr-ip!” and a woman shrieks in pain. The viewer is still getting over the shock of the rip as the Ripper looks at the camera and smiles slightly, as if to make sure we savor the whole experience.

Hello? In my mind now I’m linking the cheeseburger with pubic hair. Don’t blame me—I would never go there (to Clarence-Thomas-and-the-Coke-can territory or, for that matter, to the straight old McGina) without the hold-the-lettuce people forcing me to. Isn’t the first rule of food advertising to make the imagery tasteful and appetizing? Mouth-watering? And not to bring up the idea of hair removal in the nether regions?

To be fair, “bikini waxer” is only one spot in a campaign promoting the dollar menu. The strategy (which DDB has used in Ireland and elsewhere) works nicely in the other vignettes; the spots involving a pet psychologist and a rapper are sweet and kind of clever/funny.

So how did they decide which occupation would be linked with which food? Like, the idea of a bikini waxer is pretty cheesy, so let’s pair it with a cheeseburger? The subliminal seduction of the two patties is inherently female? Or because these are such cute, little, manageable-sized cheeseburgers, and women buy them, let’s think of a line of work to appeal to them—aha, bikini waxing is hip and trendy, so let’s go with that!

Unfortunately, the trendy part is true. Indeed, given the obsession with über-grooming lately on Sex and the City and the unceasing media coverage of “metrosexuals” (men who are not afraid to pluck and moisturize), waxing issues have become part of the vernacular. When Herr Arnold announced his run for governor of California on The Tonight Show, he said, “It’s the most difficult decision I’ve ever made in my entire life, except for the one in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax.” I found that pretty tasteless, too. On last week’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, we actually saw the hapless hetero getting his back fur pulled out. One of the “make-better” guys even held the hair-clotted strips up to the camera and then wore them on his chest. (No actual strip or hair are shown in the McDonald’s spot, thank God.)

Certainly, the creatives had dozens of noncreepy, amusing occupations to choose from. How did the waxing make it on air?

Overall, the format is smart and infinitely flexible. With the three different parts and about eight seconds of vignette, it mimics the quickness of the 15-second commercial itself. The food photography is beautiful, especially in the opening shots. “Pet Psychologist,” for example, opens with hot fudge dripping on soft white ice cream. “To afford a hot-fudge sundae, this is how much a pet psychologist has to do,” our announcer says. We see the perfectly cast guy—he has unruly curly hair and wears a crisp shirt with a loosened tie—sitting twirling a pen. He looks seriously at his canine patient in the seat across from him and says, “See you next Wednesday,” as the pooch pads away from the chair. That’s funny.

Similarly, the one with the rapper (promoting the McChicken sandwich) shows the guy, baseball cap turned sideways, going “uh-uh” for one beat.

Lately, McDonald’s has tried in general to get edgier—and even intentionally bizarre. It works better for the salads and the McGriddle spots. (I like the one with the kid on the lawn in the ’50s spaceship. It seems to have come from Mars, which is delightful and unexpected.)

But there’s cutting-edge and then there are depths that should not be plumbed, like waxing. Unless advertisers want profits to wane, please find a new frontier.