Promotional feature

McDonald's bags TV creativity prize

McDonald's bags TV creativity prize

Leo Burnett London's ad for McDonald's shines a light on the night-time economy and wins the latest Thinkboxes award for TV creativity

McDonald’s latest ad, 'Night Workers', which was shot before the coronavirus crisis, highlights how the restaurant serves the night-shift workers who are often unseen by the rest of us. It was voted the best TV ad by the Thinkbox Academy of all those that debuted in March and April.

The ad is shot as if these dedicated workers – cleaners, taxi drivers, shelf stackers, nurses, firemen – are invisible, but when they enter a McDonald’s we can see their faces, relaxed and laughing, as they take a well-deserved break. The final tagline is: "If you’re awake, we’re awake".

"Over three long, cold nights in January we all became night workers," said Peter Heyes, creative director at Leo Burnett. "The main production challenges involved puppeteering and actors in bodysuits acting out the scenes so they could be posted out later." But, he added: "Some of the biggest issues we overcame were deciding which were the best crisps and best breed of dogs!"

Heyes praises the original script by Steph Ellis and Rory Hall, which he calls "a powerful but populist piece of creativity". Heyes pushed them to explore night-time scenarios that would be beautiful to watch and feel slightly undiscovered to the viewer.

They then approached director Sam Brown via Rogue Films, who loved the simplicity of the idea and its "big-heartedness". "Sam’s vision is where the magic lies," said Heyes. "The flow of the cones off the truck, the firemen playing cards, the bump in the taxi, the welder’s shadow and the patient being tucked in with care. An effortless blend of honesty and beauty."

The Mill took care of the post-production and "did what they do best", said Heyes. "The CGI work, especially the playing cards and shelf-stacking, is flawless."

The choice of music was one of the biggest creative debates, and took several weeks of searches, re-recordings and "producer meltdowns". In the end they plumped for singer and harpist Hattie Webb’s atmospheric, stripped-back cover of ‘Rhythm of the Night’ (originally released by a band called Corona, Heyes points out).

TV is a fundamental channel for McDonald’s, as the brand appeals to such a wide audience. Heyes said: "It helps us drive emotional connection and grow key brand metrics over time. It’s used as a short-term and long-term sales driver, which drives profitable top-line growth and return."

The TV spot launched on 6 March as a 60" spot during Coronation Street, and 30" cut down spots launched on 9 March. It was part of a multichannel campaign including digital, social and radio (however due to the Covid-19 crisis the radio did not go live).

The work has been incredibly well-received, by McDonald’s franchisees as well as press and peers. Heyes thinks its strength is in its simplicity and execution: "It’s flawlessly executed and I think it symbolises agency and client working as a team at the top of their game. We all feel very proud of this one."

"The relationship between Leo’s and McDonald’s is unlike so many others in the industry." he continued. "It starts and ends with inherent trust, which is vital for great work to survive."

Second place in the latest Thinkboxes winners’ line-up went to ‘Where there are cooks, there is hope’ for Lurpak by Wieden+Kennedy London. Third went to ‘Ageless’ for Tena by AMV BBDO.
Also shortlisted were ‘Food Love Stories: Dedications’ for Tesco by BBH and ‘Stay home, stay safe, stay connected’ for Virgin Media by Adam & Eve/DDB.

Agency: Leo Burnett London
Creative team: Chaka Sobhani, Pete Heyes, Rory Hall, Steph Ellis, Lou Pegg
Client: Ben Fox, Hannah Pain
Production company: Rogue Films
Director: Sam Brown

The Thinkboxes, in association with Campaign, are the only bi-monthly awards that celebrate the UK’s world-beating TV ad creativity, in all its forms. They are judged by the Thinkbox Academy – 200 advertising and marketing luminaries who have been involved in award-winning creative work for TV.

Want to see more great work? Head to the Thinkboxes hub

Thinkbox is the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, in all its forms. Its shareholders are Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media, Turner Media and UKTV. Thinkbox works with the marketing community with a single ambition: to help advertisers get the best out of today’s TV.

Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free