Bad press and public hue and cry followed a March announcement by McDonald's that it planned to pay hip-hop artists to name-drop the Big Mac in their rhymes — all part of the company's ongoing "I'm lovin' it" campaign. Now, eight months later and way behind schedule, it appears the plan's in a state of limbo after the burger chain failed to identify "the match that we've been looking for."
But it hasn't been for a lack of trying. According to business magazine Advertising Age, Massachusetts marketing firm Maven Strategies has met with numerous rappers (no word on who, exactly), record labels and producers with the Big Mac product-placement pitch. Several tracks were even submitted to Maven, who later presented the tracks to McDonald's; ultimately, the franchise giant wanted final approval on all lyrics — which only needed to mention the sandwich, not the parent company (see "Big Mac Pimpin'? McDonald's Enlisting MCs To Rap About Burgers"). So far things haven't gone according to plan.
"We have not identified the right opportunity," a spokesperson for McDonald's told Advertising Age, adding that the plan's not dead quite yet. "We are open to ideas to positively reflect our brand but we have not yet identified the match that we've been looking for."
The burger purveyors had wanted the campaign to be in full swing — with songs invading the nation's airwaves — before summer. Artists would've been paid between $1 and $5 for each time their song was played on a regular or satellite radio.
That the plan's failed to advance beyond the recording studios is music to Dr. Susan Linn's ears. The co-founder of Boston watchdog group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said if McDonald's winds up scrapping the proposal, she'll do a victory dance.
"McDonald's received a lot of negative press for this idea — it would be nice if the rap community decided it wasn't going to do it," she said. She added that, from her experience, when a "campaign's put on hold, that's what [companies] say when they're dropping it."
The CCFC was one of the first groups to publicly bash the fast-food conglomerate. According to Advertising Age, the organization characterized McDonald's plan as a "new and deceitful [method] of targeting children" and that young hip-hop fans wouldn't "know the rappers are being paid to push Big Macs — these 'adversongs' are inherently deceptive." The burger chain responded by saying, "This is where brand relevance has gone, and we have great confidence that the consumer understands this. [Consumers are] cognizant of this as a placement in brand strategy. We believe that the McDonald's brand is so omnipresent already in America that having it in music, having it in TV, having it in movies, is no more intrusive than anything else children experience nowadays."
"The hypocrisy is quite extraordinary," Linn told MTV News. "McDonald's, right at that time, were talking about their salads and [how they were] a wonderful company. Meanwhile, there they were, on the side, trying to get rap singers to insert the words 'Big Mac' in their songs. It's like taking a toxic-waste dump from one neighborhood and moving it to a more vulnerable neighborhood."
Linn said her group will soon turn its focus to the rappers themselves — well, the ones she said promote tobacco use in their songs and videos, at least.
Neither Maven President Tony Rome nor McDonald's representatives returned calls for further comment.