MCDONALD'S RAP SONG PRODUCT PLACEMENT PLAN
No Suitable Tune Found in Current Submissions
Advertising Age, 9/26/05
Earlier this year, McDonald’s Corp. unveiled
plans to enlist rap artists to produce several
songs that would integrate the Golden Arches’
iconic Big Mac sandwich into lyrics. The move,
as first reported by Madison & Vine in March,
was to be part of the company’s ongoing strategy
to court the youth market, especially young men,
McDonald’s hired Lanham, Md.-based
entertainment marketing firm Maven Strategies to
oversee the development and production of the
songs. The company has generated interest from
advertisers after successfully integrating
Seagram's gin into five rap songs from artists
such as Kanye West and Petey Pablo. Mr. Pablo's
"Freek-a-leek" ended up as the No. 2 hip-hop
song of 2004, according to Billboard, and played
over 350,000 times on the radio. Part of the
lyrics: "Now I got to give a shout out to
Seagram's Gin/Cause I'm drinkin' it and they
payin' me for it."
McDonald’s plan was to adopt the way rap artists
have previously endorsed products in their songs
-- from Run-DMC's "My Adidas" to Busta Rhymes's
"Pass the Courvoisier." Missy Elliott and
Ludacris have name-dropped Cadillac’s Escalade,
while Gucci, Prada, Cartier, Bentley, Porsche,
Gulfstream, Dom Perignon and Dolce & Gabbana
have been heard in tracks from Nelly, Lil’ Kim,
Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg, among others.
Last year, Kanye West mentioned 19 brands,
including Lexus, Versace, Cartier, Mercedes and
Cadillac in four singles, according to American
Brandstand, which tracks the number of brands
music acts mention in their songs.
McDonald’s will pay artists as an incentive to
produce a hit -- paying artists from $1 to $5
every time their song is played on the radio.
Final lyrics approval
Since landing the job, Maven has met with
several rappers, record labels and producers
with the Big Mac proposal and has even taken
several of the submitted tracks to McDonald’s.
The fast-food giant receives final approval of
the lyrics, but it will ultimately allow artists
to decide how the sandwich is integrated into
the songs. Lyrics are to focus on the Big Mac
alone, and not necessarily mention McDonald's or
the Golden Arches.
A McDonald’s spokesman said the project is still
“We have not identified the right opportunity,”
the spokesman said. “We are open to ideas to
positively reflect our brand but we have not yet
identified the match that we’ve been looking
Not helping matters is a recent high-level
executive shuffle at the Golden Arches.
In August, Quaker Foods president Mary Dillon
was tapped to successed Larry Light, McDonald’s
chief global marketing officer. Ms. Dillon takes
the new post in October.
Mr. Light, who will retire at year’s end, is
credited with reigniting the restaurant chain’s
sales and overhauling its marketing plan --
which includes the "I'm lovin' it" strategy and
efforts to resonate with the youth market
through urban culture.
The controversy that erupted over McDonald’s
plans also may not have helped produce the Big
Mac-injected tracks any faster.
After plans were revealed, the project quickly
found itself in the crosshairs of America’s
child-obesity fighters, and drew the ire of
watchdog group the Campaign for a
Commercial-Free Childhood, which called
McDonald’s plan “new and deceitful ways of
targeting children. ... Listeners won't know the
rappers are being paid to push Big Macs -- these
'adversongs' are inherently deceptive."
McDonald's countered, saying, "This is where
brand relevance has gone and we have great
confidence that the consumer understands this,"
a spokesman said. "[Consumers are] cognizant of
this as a placement in brand strategy. ... We
believe that the McDonald's brand is so
omnipresent already in America that having it in
music, having it in TV, having it in movies, is
no more intrusive than anything else children
The Big Mac project isn’t the only one that
remains stuck in development hell.
McDonald’s still has yet to reveal the new
uniforms it is designing with the help of
designers such as Russell Simmons’ Phat farm,
Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Sean John, Tommy Hilfiger,
Fubu and American Apparel, among others. First
reported by Advertising Age in July, McDonald’s
hopes to turn its uniforms into hip street wear,
and use its army of young employees as walking
billboards as they circulate among their peers.
Those close to the projects say McDonald’s may
be developing a strategy to introduce both the
songs and uniforms at the same time, considering
their close ties to the hip-hop community. Ms.
Dillon is considering that as one of her first
tasks. She is also overseeing the next
generation of McDonald’s "I’m lovin’ it”
campaign, scheduled to break in April.
Either way, the delays should not be considered
a sign that McDonald’s is shying away from
entertainment. In fact, that’s hardly the case,
as the company has been using entertainment to
aggressively court young adults, rather than
children, as it has in the past.
The strategy has included the company’s “Are You
Mac Enough?” campaign, a three-week promotion
with House of Blues Entertainment to promote the
Big Mac through a sweepstakes that ran from
April through May offering consumers a chance to
win concert tickets and prizes by using
promotion codes found on Big Mac boxes. Events
and mobile phone text messages were also
integrated into the promotion.
And in Hollywood, McDonald’s has brokered a
two-year non-exclusive marketing and promotional
pact with DreamWorks Animation SKG, kicking off
with Shrek 3 in 2007. The burger chain is in the
final stretch of an exclusive 10-year deal with
the Walt Disney Co. that ends in 2006
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