My local neighbourhood is plastered with McDonalds adverts. I pondered whether it’s an attempt to overcome the proliferation of chicken shop takeaways offering £1 kids meals, which are abundant in this part of East London. These chicken joints make McDonalds look positively expensive and have the added bonus of resepctfully calling their customers ‘bossman’.
This advertising seems to be densely targeted near to the large drive-thru McDonalds situated around the corner, in the hope that sight of a massive Big Mac on a bus shelter will cause people to enter a zombie-like state, marching tirelessly with rolled-back eyes until they reach the shiny touchscreen ordering altar of this global corporate church, where their bloodlust for fast food can be sated.
McDonalds. The Truth.
Disliking McDonalds can be quite fashionable, especially in the oh-so-virtuous middle class health bubbles of foodie culture, but I’m not that person. As a kid I loved them and have fond memories of childhood birthdays being celebrated there. It seemed a rite of passage for children of the seventies to be locked into a walk-in freezer on their seventh birthday, before a crew member begrudgingly dressed as Hamburglar was tormented by us.
A few years later, McDonalds became the place that my friends and I would hang out as gothic teenage mall-rats, being decidedly antisocial and using ashtrays as frisbees. Yes, I remember when you could smoke in McDonalds and on buses. Later in my school days we’d meet at McDonalds before a big night out, furtively passing a whisky bottle around to liven up our extra-value meal drinks before hitting student night at the local crap club, stretching the term ‘student’ to it’s lower limit as we were studying at school.
When I was eighteen, my girlfriend was a manager at McDonalds. Having a girlfriend who worked at McDonalds came with massive benefits in the form of under-the-counter, fully customised meals of whatever I desired. My favourite was a Big Mac made using quarter pounder patties and extra cheese. It turned the mighty Big Mac into the beast of a burger that it had never quite been.
McDonalds is culturally entwined with my life in and around London, it’s been ubiquitous throughout my years and formed a backdrop to many memories which I still hold today.
Get To The Point, Gavin.
Today, I eat McDonalds very occasionally, about once or twice a year, because I can’t shake the fact that I genuinely love a Big Mac. Despite questionable health credentials, I’m sticking to the mantra that a varied diet is a healthy one. McDonalds aren’t even the big bad ogre of food sourcing that people like to think, especially after the scandals of the nineties. Their procurement standards maintain a very high standard, with a supply chain as tight as a food-safe glove. Their meat supply is so highly traceable that they were one of the few large companies selling beef who were entirely unaffected by the horsemeat scandal.
McDonald’s has, however, often received criticism about the advertised appearance of their food, when compared to the real thing. People have highlighted this with photos showing the discrepancies between what the billboards say and what gets served on the counter. With a McDonalds restaurant nearby and my studio lights set up for another photoshoot, I simply couldn’t resist grabbing iPhone shots of the local bus shelters along with a Big Mac and fries, then chuck them onto a grey background and see how the reality of McDonalds food stacks up against the adverts, today.
Here are my findings…
The Mighty Big Mac Advert
The classic, mighty Big Mac. It’s always been my default choice, with no other burger in their range featuring the super-secret treat of Big Mac sauce. Here’s how it looks in the advertising.
The Reality of The Big Mac
Are you ready for the shocking results? It looks completely… the same.
Seriously, I’m amazed, I was expecting a damp, squat pastiche of the advert. Aside from the advertised burger (sorry, sandwich) having a voluminous top bun which appears 50% taller, the rest of the burger is as advertised, with a little bit of tweaking for the camera. I’ll give McDonalds top marks for this.
The Medium Fries Advert
On to the fries.
I shot some takeaway fries for a project earlier in the year and I realise that making them look good and abundant is not simple. The advertised portion here is literally climbing out of the wrapper, reaching for the sky, they’re aching to escape into your sweet ‘n sour dip.
The Real Medium Fries
OK, the reality.
First, I must clarify there were no stray fries hiding in the bottom of the bag, I lifted this pack straight onto the set, then took the shot. Taking the advert at face value, my portion would appear to be about 50% lighter than advertised and a bit more soggy.
This gets a big thumbs down.
McDonalds Advertised vs Real
Here are side-by-side images to show the difference more clearly. The burger genuinely looks good and the fries look like a sad state of affairs. McDonalds, if you’re reading this, it’s time to start giving us full portions of fries!