McDonald’s in Pop Culture: The Analysis of Changes in Commercials

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In the 20th century, advertising consisted of radio infomercials and TV commercials with storylines. According to Quartz, the first official TV commercial aired on July 1, 1941. It was a commercial for Bulova Watch Co.

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and it cost only $9 total to air it. These days, a commercial can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands and Super Bowl Ads can be priced up to $5 million. McDonald’s is one of the biggest advertisers and on average spends $2 billion annually. They are also one of the biggest fast food chains in the world and a substantial factor for their success is marketing. One of the most important concepts McDonald’s introduced was called McDonaldland. Launched in 1971, McDonaldland was implemented as an advertising campaign to advertise McDonald’s. McDonaldland was a fictional magical world consisting of Ronald McDonald, the Hamburglar, and food-based characters like Mayor McCheese and Officer Big Mac. With the internet and social media being a major part of this generation, advertisers have been forced to change their way of marketing products and services. Change in pop culture has affected techniques such as characters, plot, time, and slogans in advertising over time.

Fictional characters played a big role in capturing the interests of kids in advertising. McDonald’s used food-based and other characters to market their products. In an older McDonald’s commercial, they used the characters Ronald McDonald, the Hamburglar, and the Hamburgers. Willard Scott who had played Bozo the Clown prior created Ronald McDonald. After Bozo went off air following years of popularity among kids, a local McDonald’s asked him to create a clown to replace Bozo and Scott came up with Ronald McDonald (Scott, 1983). Before clowns were considered sinister and disturbing, clowns symbolized delight and glee for children. Clowns were popular, and children loved them. For children to see a clown on television, it brought them joy and captured their attention. Ronald McDonald is still known today, however, he and other characters stopped appearing in commercials due to the fall of McDonaldLand. He’s just known as the mascot of McDonald’s and represents the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Additionally, for McDonald’s to have incorporated fictional characters like these in their commercials, they were catering to trends at the time. Amusement parks such as Disneyland were the place to go and have a magical day with the family. Incorporating a fictional world into their commercials gave a sense of that type of magic for children. McDonald’s could too be the happiest place on earth just like Disneyland.

In contrast, celebrity endorsements are now used to grab the attention of teens and adults. Specifically, this commercial targeted those who are sports orientated in contrary to targeting children in the past commercial. Therefore, athletes LeBron James and Dwight Howard starred in this commercial,

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