Saturday, February 13, 2010

McDonald's, Rhetorically Speakin(g)

I have suddenly become aware that the interpretation of the rhetoric used in McDonald's commercials has been something I've been doing since I was a small child, though perhaps only on a subconscious level until now. I can still hear children singing the "Do you believe in magic" Happy Meal commercials from the 90's, as I can also recall soundbites of the "We love to see you smile," "Did somebody say McDonald's," and "I'm lovin' it" campaigns. It was therefore interesting to see that the current "I'm lovin' it" slogan made its way to the Spanish website, appearing about the same number of times and in the same places as on the US site, and in English nonetheless. Having been to the McDonald's in Madrid last week and to the McDonald's here in Barcelona earlier today, I can say that the menu items are basically the same with only a few small differences. I haven't run into a New York Crispy or a CBO (Chicken Bacon Onion) Sandwich in a South Carolina McDonald's before, however these could be new items in the states added to the menu in the last month.
It was not the food items so much that were noticeably different, but the subtly different ways in which they were presented to me, the consumer. The first advertisement on the Spanish site that you see depicts cows which have eaten the field of grass in which they stand to resemble the shape of the country itself. In a subsequent video advertisement the cheerful music and pleasant voice announce that McDonald's hamburger meat sold in Spain is from Spanish livestock. Although the US site does have a link devoted to pushing their menu as "healthy," the larger concern in Spain is not about the calorie count, but rather about the freshness of the food prepared, and where it comes from. Given that the recent Mad Cow scare in Britain is not to far from both the minds of Europeans and the shores of Spanish cities, it is logical that addressing this concern and reassuring the consumer of the freshness and localness of the beef would be of utmost concern to restaurants in Spain. The music and pleasantness of the ad give a secure feeling, and the site of one's own country may even evoke a sense of Spanish pride. The cattle appear to be quite content living in such a picturesque landscape, and this puts the viewer at ease as well. The reassuring voice in the commercial lets the viewer know that McDonald's is primarily concerned with their best interest and has taken the steps necessary to bring them the product that they desire in the manner that they desire.
One comparison of the two sites that I kept noticing was the "informal" language or presentation that the company was trying to push. The main example I experienced on the US site was the complete abandonment of the letter "g" in titles or words used in slogans that ended in "-ing." By spelling the words this way they are trying to create an atmosphere in which the consumer feels as if he or she is at the restaurant to have fun and relax from the formalities of everyday life at the office or school. In fact they even have a title at the top of the page called, "Havin' Fun." I did find it interesting that in lengthier descriptions or in phrases that comprised complete sentences the "g's" were no longer excluded. I assume this was because if it were to be taken to this level of exclusion the site may come off as sounding too relaxed and could be perceived by some as unintelligent, ignorant, or stereotypical of certain regions in the United States. The Spanish website achieved this idea of informality by including exclamation points with many of their titles and by writing many menu items in a "hand-written" script. In the McDonald's itself there are advertisements on the wall which display hand-drawn sketches of fresh-ingredients along with descriptions in a font that resembles a cursive hand writing. These not only continue to play on the appeal of fresh ingredients but also divert the consumers attention away from the fact that McDonald's is a world-wide chain of restaurants and therefore can be seen as lacking intimacy or originality with the consumer. This is also why both sites push the "identity" or personalization of the restaurant angle.
Overall, I didn't find the Spanish site to be all that different than the American site. Had I looked at the site in English, and had the cows eaten the grass into the shape of the United States rather than Spain, I honestly don't think I could have told the difference between the two. But when I looked closer at the rhetoric of the two sites, I could see that there were many subtle differences that, because of culture, existed between the two. Either way a dollar menu cheeseburger with McDonald's fries is still one of my favorite low budget meals.

No comments:

Post a Comment