Even Santa Needs a Break From Christmas in McDonald's Ad

Brand puts a seasonal spin on successful 'Raise Your Arches' campaign

Save 50% on your Social Media Week pass! Join leading brands and agencies in NYC this April 9–11 to learn about emerging trends, tools and strategies. Register now—savings expire Dec. 11.

‘Tis the season to be merry and bright, but beyond the glittering lights and mulled wine, the demands of the holiday period can often feel like hard work.

That’s why this year, McDonald’s wants people to know it’s there for them, whether they want to escape the lackluster office Christmas party or leave the nativity show a little early.

The fast-food chain’s feel-good U.K. holiday ad by Leo Burnett U.K. showcases the power and irresistible lure of a Big Mac, inviting the nation to ask friends, family and co-workers if they “Fancy a McDonald’s” this season.

Building on the brand’s “Raise Your Arches” campaign, launched in January 2023, McDonald’s festive spot opens at a dull workplace gathering where a woman in a snowman costume is reluctantly singing a karaoke duet with her colleague. Saved by a ping, she receives a message from her friend: a burger and fries emoji followed by a question mark.

As 1980s banger “Jump” by Van Halen comes into play, the woman’s friend raises his eyebrows at her, extending an invite to McDonald’s that needs no words. Together, they go off, with the rest of the party in tow.

The crowd walk across town as other groups of people with the same idea raise their eyebrows and leave their festive gatherings to join in, including Santa. The procession grows by a group of commuters whose trains get cancelled and a cohort of parents desperate to escape their kids’ nativity play.

The crowd strides towards their local McDonald’s branch, and the golden arches glow comes into view. The film ends with smiling McDonald’s staff greeting everybody before “Fancy a McDonald’s?” appears on screen.

The ad is directed by Killing Eve’s Shannon Murphy and will run across TV, social and PR channels. Alongside this, the brand will run 30 days of offers via its app, allowing customers to win food and merch, including special edition Crocs decorated with McDonald’s iconography.

The creative is a departure from McDonald’s longstanding “Reindeer Ready” Christmas work, which sought to build an emotional connection with audiences.

“That’s been such a big part of our festive offering, and a platform that has truly stood the test of time,” Andrew Long, creative partner at Leo Burnett UK, told Adweek.

A new Christmas trilogy

The latest installment from the brand marks the third iteration of its “Raise Your Arches” proposition, unveiled by Michelle Graham-Clare, the brand’s U.K. CMO earlier this year. The brand platform celebrates the knowing look and unspoken communication used by hungry customers to signify the all-consuming craving for a McDonald’s.

According to the effectiveness testing platform System1, 98% of people identified the initial 60-second spot as a McDonald’s ad before the end, defying the industry average score within the category and indicating the ad’s “exceptional” strength in brand recognition.

The campaign has expanded into 35 additional markets, with James Millers, creative partner at Leo Burnett U.K., telling Adweek the creative team never planned for a trilogy.

“In the film, we wanted to tell an unashamedly feel-good story, showing how different groups of people use the invite to McDonald’s as a little moment of release from those festive moments we need it most,” he finished.

Increasingly, McDonald’s global and local marketing strategy is pinned around insights rooted in what it calls “fan truths:” the moments, memories and real-life experiences that make McDonald’s relevant to individuals. 

In the U.S., this has shown up through work like “Famous Orders” by Wieden+Kennedy, which pushes the universal truth that everyone has a go-to McDonald’s order, even customers as iconic as Magic Johnson and Kim Kardashian.

“We’ve shifted our logic of being a brand that speaks brand-to-fan to one that speaks fan-to-fan,” Hassan told Adweek in April 2023.

Enjoying Adweek's Content? Register for More Access!