How McDonald’s’ latest ad got everyone talking about an everyday facial expression

January 17, 2023

Advertising from fast food chain McDonald’s tends to feature its products–burgers being bitten into by delighted-looking customers, food items merrily bouncing as if freshly flung into buns by a cheerful chef—or in former years, a clown. But a new ad for the chain, initially released in the UK, upends that tradition, reports Quartz.

British filmmaker Edgar Wright—best known for comedy movies like Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Baby Driver (2017)—has raised eyebrows with his use of quirky choreography and one suggestive gesture.

The “double eyebrow raise”—a person raising both his or her brows twice in quick succession—is, of course, not new. But the Wright ad does cleverly align the oft-used facial expression to suggest that something like “this is a bit cheeky” with the McDonald’s “M” logo, sometimes referred to as the “golden arches.”

At the same time, the ad’s narrative captures the zeitgeist of the times. In it, two female workers instigate a comedic exodus from a dull-looking office, using their raised eyebrows to signal to colleagues that they should all go for lunch—a reminder of the months of debate over post-COVID workplace practices that really have seen workers refuse to return to their desks in favor of more flexible work lives.

The ad, set to 1985 track Oh Yeah by Yello, is also reminiscent of dance trends popularized by Tik Tok and other apps in which groups of people, often wearing ordinary clothes and in everyday settings, break into well-rehearsed coordinated dance moves.

A Twitter conversation between Tom Sussman, head of planning at the agency behind the Wright ad, Leo Burnett, and another advertising agency executive, also shone a light on the creative process behind the ad. Sussman explained that ethnographic research suggested the eyebrow raise as the starting point for the ad, and only later was that gesture linked to the McDonald’s logo, and the ultimate music choice.

Fans of Wright’s films have debated online whether he did well to accept a commission from a company that many associate with corporate America, industrial food production, and even obesity. But many others seem simply to be enjoying the sight of “ordinary” workers wielding the power of their brows to take collective action on… getting some lunch.

Research contact: @qz