McDonald’s sends lamb to the slaughter, but Chickens come to the rescue

McDonald’s announced today that it was discontinuing its lamb burgers in New Zealand after disappointing sales results. But as one range departs, the new chicken range has arrived, and DDB NZ has enlisted 20 people who really know their chicken to help sell it. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEdrZTsy9K4DDB NZ often squares up against DDB Sydney for McDonald’s trans-Tasman work, with the best idea getting the nod (for example, DDB NZ made the ‘Staying up Late‘ spot for the Olympics and the ‘Chicken so good it sells itself‘ campaign starring Shane Warne). And DDB NZ’s idea for this campaign was to round up a few human Chickens to welcome the three new chicken burgers now featuring on McDonald’s permanent menu. 

The idea looked good on paper, says Jordan Sky, DDB NZ’s creative director on McDonald’s, and after it was approved the challenge was “locating a bunch of people named Chicken”. That ended up being quite a difficult process, with the team having to navigate do not contact registers in Australia and tap into the ‘Chicken network’ to find other family members and non-related Chickens they knew of who might want to feature in the ad. 

“There were a few little curveballs. One of the Chickens was meant to appear in a video with his wife, but she got sick, so we had to bring in a replacement Chicken,” he says. 

It ended up being close to an even split between Aussie and Kiwi Chickens. And from start to finish, he says the project took “between two and three months”. 

The ads were shot in Sydney (Carnival Films and Waitemata Films were on production duties), with New Zealanders and a few Brisbanians flown in to town and presumably kept in large paddocks where they could roam free. 

He says some of the Chickens they approached weren’t keen on participating because they felt as though the name had been a “cross to bear” and this campaign would only make it worse. But, in what could be seen as something of a branded anthropological experiment (or maybe a pseudo support group), Sky says how they dealt with having such a name is exactly what they wanted to hear about for the campaign. 

In some ways, you could say the Chickens are being used. But Sky was “pleasantly surprised” by the way they were able to laugh at themselves and embrace the idea (he says a lot of them have chicken paraphernalia around their houses) and he sees the campaign as a reward for them. 

“Seeing them all on set, they looked like they were having a great time. One of the guys said he’d never seen so many Chickens in one place before,” he says. 

Sky says the idea was to create a campaign that also exists outside of traditional media and one of the goals was to let fans get to know the Chickens a bit better. As such, there are individual one-minute interviews with some of the stars that are being featured on its Facebook page (Fuse handles the social side of things for McDonald’s), including a guy who changed his name from Chicken to Thompson, Graeme Chicken (awesome, slightly ironic quote: “If you get the jokes in first you’ve got them eating out of your hand”), Emma Chicken and plucky old Maureen Chicken.  





Obviously, this campaign was fertile territory for joke-loving creatives and Sky says the team had a lot of fun with it. But no matter how clever or original the creatives thought they were being with their quips (the Chicken literally crossing the road) or visual gags (the egg on the seat), “the Chickens had seen it all before and heard it all before”.

While using real people rather than professional actors makes this campaign different, Sky says it also departs from the norm in its treatment of the food on screen and the use of a panelling effect. 



“We’re heroing how the food looks and showing more of it,” he says. “They’re really proud of the products.” 

He says the feedback to the campaign has been great so far, both in terms of sales and customer’s reactions. 

And in case you were wondering why the burgers look so much different in the ads than in real life, McDonald’s Canada can explain. 


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