The Power of Gherkins

McDonald's Gherkin Banner

We all know what McDonald’s sells. Apart from special themed burgers, it’s not always necessary for the fast-food giant to air adverts about its products. Recent years have produced creatives that are much more brand-focused that try to funnel some positive sentiment towards the often criticised fast-food chain. They all have a warm feel, playful tone of voice, and light-hearted message. What’s seems to be its chosen vehicle to communicate these values to viewers? The humble gherkin.


McDonald’s “Hunter Gatherer” creative that is airing during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


The most recent McDonald’s TV spot that’s being aired during World Cup coverage can be seen above. It shows the selfless act of a soon-to-be father venturing outside in the dead of night to get his pregnant partner some food to satisfy her cravings. The man can be seen watching World Cup coverage as he makes the decision to go search some local shops for the exact thing she wants to eat. After visits to multiple shops prove unsuccessful, he decides to try one more place: McDonald’s. He then comes home and hands his partner a Big Mac box that’s full of gherkins as she smiles at him lovingly.


McDonald’s “Dave” creative that aired in 2013.


This follows a spot from last year that followed a step-son and step-father relationship as the step-father moved into the family home. He was finding it hard to build a connection with his step-son until they managed to bond over a late night McDonald’s visit and a joke over a gherkin.

They both show rather convincingly how McDonald’s is embedded into our everyday lives and promote McDonald’s as a brand that helps us solve our everyday problems instead of a just a place to eat. They succeed in making McDonald’s feel all warm and fuzzy, helping customers to forget about the debatable quality and healthiness of its products. In both of these spots, McDonald’s acts as an omnipresent facilitator figure, always there to help if you need it.

Another spot from last year attempted to show that “We all have McDonald’s in common”. This creative was equally as warm and fuzzy, with a somewhat clichéd ending. It nevertheless works in reinforcing how McDonald’s is a fundamental part of our culture, whether we like it or not. For the brand, adopting this emotive tone of voice is only going to help swing positive sentiment further in its direction.


McDonald’s ran a creative last year showing how “We all have McDonald’s in common”.


Past McDonald’s adverts that promoted brand over product were often downright creepy (see below) but now the brand has found its sweet spot. So what am I trying to really say with all of these references to gherkins? Adverts that tug ever so slightly at the heartstrings and emphasise small quirks of McDonald’s seem to produce a good outcome. I think we can certainly expect more adverts featuring our pickled friends in the near future. Perhaps other global brands can exploit similar quirks to make their brands feel more personable to the average consumer.


A strange McDonald’s ad from 1997 that focuses on the brand instead of its products.


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