A Delicious Study in How McDonald’s Convinced America to Gorge Itself with Big Macs
As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I swore off fast food. Yet I’ve had a real hankerin’ for a good ol’ Big Mac these past few days. But rather than give into the craving, I decided to dig through the history of Big Mac commercials to see how they’ve changed over the years. That should satiate my craving and not send me into an insane, Big-Mac-Special-Sauce-slurping binge, right?
1968: The First Big Mac Commercial
The Big Mac was created in 1967 by McDonald’s franchise owner Jim Delligatti in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Their successful sales caught the attention of McDonald’s corporate, and a year later, the Big Mac was on every McDonald’s menu in the country. To launch the burger nationwide, the first commercial saw a rather boring-looking dude in a tan suit announce, “I’m going to show you how McDonald’s builds a Big Mac sandwich,” with a step-by-step tutorial on the Big Mac.
1974: The Famous Big Mac Jingle Is Born
Six years later, McDonald’s introduced probably its single most memorable ad campaign ever when they dropped the Big Mac jingle. It merely listed the burger’s ingredients, but it did so in such a catchy way McDonald’s would use the jingle for decades to come. If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the jingle, it goes like this: “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.”
Those were the ingredients when the Big Mac first launched, and those are still the ingredients today. There have been slight changes to the sauce recipe, as well as the burger and bun sizes, but the jingle still very much applies.
1978: The Big Mac Jingle Remix
For the first few years of the Big Mac jingle, the ads featured people trying to say the jingle over and over again. By 1978, however, they decided to shake things up by adding a few more lyrics, including, “There’s something about a Big Mac that keeps you coming back.” It was more of a sentimental McDonald’s song rather than a quick, melodic jingle, but the ingredients were still listed in there.
1979: Another Sentimental Big Mac Song
Another year, a whole ‘nother song dedicated to the Big Mac. This one went on about the “one and only taste” of the Big Mac and featured all kinds of people enjoying it — from kids to business stiffs to, yes, fiddle-playing hillbillies.
1981: The Sexy Big Mac Ad
Sex sells, so in 1981, McDonald’s tried to make an alluring commercial listing the Big Mac ingredients and displaying them in a seductive fashion.
1983: Big Mac, the Leader of the Pack
In 1983, McDonald’s tried out another song — a Big Mac-ified take on “Leader of the Pack,” with a bunch of girls singing and hanging out on the hood of a car, chowing down on Big Macs.
1984: A Soulful Take on the Jingle
A decade after it debuted, McDonald’s returned to the original Big Mac jingle, this time sung more slowly and soulfully. The only lyrical difference was adding on the tag, “It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonald’s.”
1985: The Big Mac Man
Ah, the “Big Mac Man” commercial, which features a woman singing about how much she loves her “Big Mac Man” because he eats Big Macs. Just when I thought love was dead, it turns out there is hope for all of us.
1985: The Cabbie
Another Big Mac song, this one about a Big Mac eating cabbie. Admittedly, he looks lonely compared to the Big Mac Man.
1986: The Big Mac Attack
Newhart’s Tom Poston stars in this ad, which describes the symptoms of a “Big Mac Attack” (i.e., an uncontrollable urge to have a Big Mac). McDonald’s would continue with the “Big Mac Attack” ads for several more years.
1987: Back to the Big Mac
Back to the Future was a huge hit in the mid-1980s. Hence this commercial where a Marty McFly-like kid travels back in time only to discover there are no Big Macs yet, so he returns to the present day.
1990: How to Improve a Big Mac
In 1990, McDonald’s ran an ad where they asked a bunch of different people — from surfers to grandmothers! — how to improve a Big Mac. The punchline was that Big Macs are perfect as-is.
1993: Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird
While not quite as exciting as Poston, this ad featured a couple of relatively well-known basketball players playing one-on-one for a Big Mac. Neither of them win, which I guess means neither got a Big Mac?
1995: The Beloved Big Mac Jingle Returns
This time, a bunch of celebrities are trying to sing the theme, including Daffy Duck, the characters from The Wizard of Oz and some other basketball guy. Poston was still alive at this point, so I don’t understand why they couldn’t squeeze him in there too.
2003: The Big Mac Rap
“The Big Mac Rap” took the classic jingle and infused it with “really hip” rap lyrics. It’s so cringey that it makes the “There’s Something About a Big Mac That Keeps You Coming Back” song seem hardcore.
2004: Another Big Mac Rap
This one’s even cringier (and cornier).
2013: The Pop Icon
This 2013 ad portrayed the Big Mac as a really cool celebrity who went to pool parties and was too important to give interviews. It’s dumb.
2018: The MacCoin
For the Big Mac’s 50th anniversary, McDonald’s introduced the MacCoin, a real-minted, golden coin worth the value of one Big Mac anywhere on Earth. They gave them away at all sorts of events, making for a pretty exciting global campaign for Big Mac enthusiasts.
2023: Brian Cox Is the New Tom Poston
In 2023, McDonald’s hired Succession star Brian Cox to provide voiceovers for its ads, including Big Mac commercials. He’s no Tom Poston, but he’ll do.