As I’ve written many times (and will no doubt write many times more), I enjoy watching old VHS tapes in my collection because they provide time-capsule-like snapshots of a certain era. You get a glimpse of what folks were obsessed with back then–or what their corporate overlords DEMANDED they be obsessed with.
Prime example: McDonald’s. Being the unstoppable behemoth they are, advertising is virtually pointless for them. Unless they’re introducing a new product or promoting a sale, there’s really no way for them to increase McDonalds awareness, or no reason to, either.
Problem is, McDonalds has an advertising budget that dwarfs the GDP of several African nations, and them bucks gotta be spent somewhere! So sometimes they devote said bucks to idiosyncratic campaigns whose aims aren’t exactly clear when the commercials first air, and become progressively dimmer with the passing of time. For instance, I have many McDonalds ads from the mid-80s in my YouTube collection that involve people dancing. Not just a few steps, either. I’m talking like Busby Berkeley showstoppers. Did anybody want to see this 25 years ago? I doubt it, but these ads look a hundred times weirder now.
But that’s a subject for another time (or never; never works, too). This is all a lead in to tell you that I was recently reminded of an odd ad campaign McDonalds ran in my youth. (What reminded me? My brain, because it hates me.) They had several commercials in which the HOTNESS of their food was heavily emphasized. Me, I think heat is an assumed quality of all food, non-gazpacho edition. But for some reason, circa 1985, McDonalds was all like NO, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. OUR FOOD IS REALLY REALLY HOT AND THIS IS A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION. It seems ironic in retrospect, considering they were eventually sued for almost burning someone’s face off with coffee.
My efforts to find out exactly why McDonalds did this (i.e., googling) have been fruitless. The only theory I have is that these debuted around the same time as Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” ads. So perhaps this was McDonalds reaction to Wendy’s needling of the size of their meat. “Oh yeah, you think your burgers are bigger? Well, ours are hotter. Take that, assholes.”
So that you may be as baffled as I, here are a few humble examples.
This first one is a teen-aimed ad in which youngsters are seen doing hot things like trying on terrible clothes, attending a rock and/or roll concert, walking down a street with a keytar, and otherwise engaging hot teenage activity while enjoying McDonalds’ hot hot fries. You would not believe how hot those fries are when you’re doing gymnastics, okay? And look, the super rock star goes to McDonalds and sits down near those girls! That would happen in real life, you guys!
Here’s another one with a decidedly “urban” bent, both musically and cast-wise. The litany of hot items McDonalds offers has expanded considerably and now includes the McDLT, which was sold in a double clamshell thingy to keep the hot side hot and the cold side cold, so…you know what? Let’s just move on. They use the phrase “hand-warmin” prominently, which I guess is more appealing than “tongue-meltin”. This is also the first instance I can recall of McDonalds referring to itself as “Mickey D’s” (boo).
Another “urban” ad, in which the art of double dutch is used to sell Chicken McNuggets. It’s obviously supposed to be a sequel to this commercial from years earlier. McDonalds slogan “It’s a good time for the great taste” is interrupted by the stinger “It doesn’t mean a lot if you don’t get it hot!” I couldn’t agree more, jump ropers!
Then there was this “muy caliente” ad. I always got the impression this commercial was aimed at a specific audience, but for the life of me I can’t figure out which one…
Eventually, the meme was expanded to let people know that not only was McDonalds food super hot and if you say otherwise go burn in hell, but that it would also be prepared fast. How fast? Like, that fast. (I snapped my fingers. You couldn’t see that. Sorry.) In these examples, John Madden–who was sorely in need of some exposure–shows us how they do it with his hilarious telestrator, brought to you buy tough actin’ Tinactin. Or Miller Lite. Or Ace Hardware. Or Lady Schick. John Madden did a Lady Schick ad, right?
But the oddest artifact by a country mile is this one, entitled “Hot and Beefy.” Yes, McDonalds commercials used to have titles, and yes, they decided to entitle one “Hot and Beefy.” In “Hot and Beefy” (ahem), a group of shlubby middle aged dudes who look like they’re about to go tailgating expound upon the hot virtues of McDonalds’ hot food by slapping their table and each other. I want to add that yes this actually happened and no you’re not hallucinating.
I have no idea what any of this means. Were these guys famous back then? Did grown men do this weird patty-cake game during the Reagan years? This ad is like from another planet or something. Quick, ask it who won the World Series last year!