McDonald's new ad campaign keeps the lovin' alive

After a tough 2014, McDonald’s wants 2015 to be a year of more lovin’.

The fast-food giant Friday introduced its new campaign for the U.S., the first announcement from U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl, who joined McDonald’s in 2014.

The new campaign emphasizes the phrase “lovin’” from its long-running “I’m lovin’ it” campaign.

The brand push comes at a critical time for Oak Brook-based McDonald’s.

“McDonald’s is moving from a philosophy of billions served to billions heard,” Wahl said in a short video released by the company. “We are listening more and assuming less.”

National television and digital advertisements will begin airing Saturday, created by Leo Burnett and supported by partnering agencies, McDonald’s said. McDonald’s also plans to return to the Super Bowl after several years, with a 60-second commercial that “will reveal a big idea,” Wahl said in a memo to U.S. restaurants.

One cartoon commercial McDonald’s released Friday, featuring a song with the line “Love is endless,” shows rivals sharing McDonald’s products. In one scene, a dog and a mail carrier sip from the same McDonald’s cup. In another, a Green Bay Packers fan lets a Chicago Bears fan have his last french fry.

“We believe that a little more lovin’ can change a lot, even the world we live in. Lately, the balance of lovin’ and hatin’ seems off. Who better to stand up for lovin’ than McDonald’s,” Wahl said.

In a new Big Mac commercial, McDonald’s pokes fun at food trends. A voice over tells “all vegetarians, foodies and gastronauts” to “kindly avert” their eyes, while the camera zooms in on the sandwich. The voice says “this is not Greek yogurt, nor will that ever be kale” while focusing on the burger’s special sauce and lettuce.

The slogan at the center of the new campaign, “I’m lovin’ it,” has punctuated countless commercials for McDonald’s since it was introduced in 2003. Chicago-based Leo Burnett has been brought in to refresh the theme, and is the ad agency behind the four new commercials introduced Friday. DDB Chicago has been the lead agency for McDonald’s U.S. advertising since 1997.

While DDB Chicago remains the agency of record, the new assignment to refresh the image of the slumping restaurant giant may represent an enormous opportunity for Leo Burnett. The new campaign will include a 60-second commercial in the Feb. 1 Super Bowl, the chain’s first appearance in the big game in several years.

In 1971, DDB predecessor Needham, Harper & Steers created the iconic “You Deserve a Break Today” campaign, helping to propel the fast-food chain to countless billions of hamburgers sold. Leo Burnett won the McDonald’s account in 1981, but DDB began nibbling away at the business and eventually reclaimed its status as lead agency.

Last year, Leo Burnett was dropped as the longtime local advertising agency for McDonald’s Owner/Operators of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. Cossette, McDonald’s lead creative agency in Canada, opened an office in Chicago and took over the local business.

McDonald’s spent $741 million on U.S. measured media in the first nine months of 2014, down from $747 million in the same period a year earlier, according to data from Kantar Media.

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