How McDonald’s told a series of moving stories in its annual Quebec campaign

Chairs. Couches. Lampshades. Pillows. Laundry baskets. Fans. McDonald’s Canada quite literally threw everything but the kitchen sink at this year’s version of its popular Moving Day campaign from Cossette.

The burger chain’s annual campaign has become a Quebec tradition in recent years, marking July 1, the day an estimated 100,000 households pack up for a move to a new house or apartment in the province.

Moving Day is a big food occasion, with brands like Domino’s and Pizza Pizza looking to grab a slice of the pie. McDonald’s has made a concerted effort to loosen pizza’s stranglehold on the day, especially since launching the McDelivery service, said Mélanie Courtois, senior marketing manager.

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“We really want to be in the game on moving day and delivery because it’s such a natural fit,” she says.

McDonald’s has been creating Moving Day ads for the past several years, using items commonly associated with moving to create visual representations of recognizable menu items.

The campaign routinely generates the most comments and positive consumer sentiment among all McDonald’s campaigns each year. “It’s so important for a brand like McDonald’s to acknowledge something so specific to Quebec. It keeps the brand love high, and that’s what we want,” says Courtois.

Previous Moving Day campaigns have used paint swatches, various types of tape, and moving boxes. This year’s ads, which featured a specific callout to its McDelivery service, featured a moving truck with furniture items arranged to create representations of the Big Mac, the Egg McMuffin and its french fries.

McDonald’s has created what Courtois calls “open briefs” around recurring events like Moving Day, Halloween and Valentine’s Day, which has led to high degree of interest across Cossette. “We want to keep the creatives engaged and loving us, and this kind of project does just that,” she says. “It’s fun, it gets the creative juices going, and it’s fair game for anyone in the agency.”

Alexandre Gadoua, national creative director, McDonald’s at Cossette in Montreal, says the campaign has in fact become a highly sought-after assignment among the agency’s creative teams.

“Since McDonald’s has such strong iconic visuals, deeply rooted in years and years of good ads, it’s just an awesome playground for creatives,” he says. “Every year my in-box is filled [with ideas] from creatives working not only on McDonald’s, but on other businesses, with ideas for Moving Day.”

The ads also benefit from both McDonald’s iconography and a visual aesthetic that has been honed over the years. “Even if we didn’t put a McDonald’s logo on it, nobody would have said [they were ads for] Harveys or Burger King,” says Gadoua.

“You don’t even have to have a headline; that’s how strong this is,” agrees Courtois. “You don’t even have to have a logo, but we’re clients so we have to ask for that. And it wasn’t even that big.”

The contents of each van were designed to tell a specific Moving Day story. The French fries execution, for example, was inspired by a young man moving into his first apartment in a trendy Montreal neighbourhood, while the Big Mac execution was intended to represent a family with kids moving into a suburban home, and the Egg McMuffin ad was a representation of a young couple moving into a condo.

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The nine-foot tall representation of the Big Mac is comprised of approximately 100 household items, including chairs, blankets and wicker baskets. “We always knew we had a sofa of that colour [for] the base, and from there we started to build,” says Gadoua. The Egg McMuffin and French fry executions each used about 80 items, which were sourced from a variety of different contributors, including a basketball from the house of art director Guillaume St-Hilaire, a chair from Gadoua’s garage.

Their creation was overseen by Sylvain Lemaitre, a Montreal production designer for films, commercials and music videos whose biography notes that he “builds gigantic sets and tells stories with objects.”

Lemaitre spent several hours overseeing the assembly of the individual creations, which were then loaded onto trucks and shot by photographer Simon Duhamel. There was no digital trickery used in the finished product, outside of some colour grading and highlighting.

“Everything is its original colour and involved research to get the correct palette,” says Lemaitre. “That is an important point for me because a lot of people assume it was. It would have been a lot easier to just paint random objects but we wanted to be realistic and raw.”

Note: This story has been updated.

Chris Powell