For the past few years, McDonald’s ‘Reindeer Ready’ spots have become some of the most anticipated campaigns for Christmas, successfully finding the brand its place in the competitive and oversaturated category of Christmas ads. Each year, families, especially children, begin to look forward to the season’s Reindeer treats and feeding Santa’s hungry reindeers. For their sixth year however, McDonald’s have decided to change things up, moving away from their carrot theme and introducing a different iconic symbol of the season, the Christmas list.
With the ‘The Alternative Christmas List,’ McDonald’s delivers a heart-warming message of the importance of family time over expensive gifts, a message very much needed in one of the most difficult years for families across the UK and Ireland. The spot, directed by Academy Award-winner Tom Hooper, looks to change the materialistic nature of the list, moving away from objects and focusing instead on the valuable moments that mean the most at Christmas. It hopefully serves as a reminder that the magic of Christmas remains even with very little and that being with your loved ones is what matters most at the end of the day.
In addition to the spot, ‘The Alternative Christmas List’ campaign introduces a mobile experience that connects parents with their kids and is curated to bring families closer in the build up to Christmas. Led by Leo Burnett UK and accessed through the McDonald’s App, it invites the fans to enjoy six unique experiences, some of which are festive audiobooks, McDonald’s festive PJs and Jumpers, McDelivery Christmas carollers and many more.
LBB’s Tamara Felemban sat down with creative directors Andrew Long and James Millers at Leo Burnett to learn more about this exciting campaign and all that it encapsulates.
LBB> The spot delivers a heart-warming message of the importance of family time over expensive gifts, in perhaps one of the most difficult years for families across the UK and Ireland. What sort of conversations did you have around how to or whether to acknowledge the cost-of-living crisis, even if it’s not explicitly mentioned in the campaign?
Andrew & James> We started working on Christmas around March and it took us a while to get the direction we were all happy with and importantly; felt right for this year. Having that time allowed us to see the changing landscape and make sure the tone of our work was balanced. We didn’t want to be a brand that completely ignored the mood and feeling of the nation, but equally, we were keen to create something that felt positive and helped people feel good this Christmas.
LBB> The Christmas list is one of the most iconic symbols of the festive season, and one that means a lot to children. How did the idea of the list first come to mind? And how did the story and idea evolve throughout the development of the script?
Andrew & James> The Christmas list is not only the symbol of the festive season but also a symbol of wanting. What we all fell in love with was the idea of flipping what a Christmas list stands for on its head. Making that wanting about time together and not material things. The notion of this is set out in the film but continued through the rest of the campaign and in our digital activation ‘The Alternative Christmas List.’
LBB> The spot manages to be magical and whimsical while also feeling very much grounded in modern Britain, with a very real, relatable family - how did you strike that balance?
Andrew & James> We wanted the list itself to have a magical, hyper-real quality. Impossibly long almost. This would give it even more power and meaning in those final few moments. With that in mind, we were conscious not to create something which felt overly glossy. We wanted the film to feel grounded and we were really happy with the way our director, Tom Hooper, brought this to life. Overall, we think this gives the film the right balance of honesty and magic.
LBB> McDonald’s has successfully found its place in the already competitive category of Christmas ads with their ‘Reindeer Ready’ concept. How do you go about making the campaign stand out each year? In its sixth year, how does this year’s spot build upon the work you’ve previously done for ‘Reindeer Ready’?
Andrew & James> We hope each new iteration builds off the successes of the previous one. After five years of establishing the ‘Reindeer Ready’ concept and McDonald’s role in the small moments during the build up to Christmas, we felt that this year we were able to move away from the literal meaning of Reindeer Ready and its connection to our carrot stick promotion, and move it into a place with a broader sentiment around being truly ready for Christmas.
LBB> The spot was directed by Academy Award-winner Tom Hooper, known for acclaimed hits such as ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘The King’s Speech’. What made him the right choice for this project? And what creative insight and experience did he bring to the table?
Andrew & James> It was obviously exciting to attract such great talent, and a testament to the consistent quality of creative McDonald’s are doing, that we’re able to. However, it wasn’t just the name that led us to Tom. He brought a lot to the treatment and his passion in early meetings was evident. Retrospectively looking at the finished film, it’s the honesty he brought in both style and performance that really makes the film work so well.
LBB> McDonald’s introduces ‘The Alternative Christmas List’ mobile experience at the centre of its campaign, a fun initiative to enhance family bonding and moments. How did the idea for the six experiences come about and why via mobile/app?
Andrew & James> It was important to everyone involved this year to not just make a TV ad. It needed to be more. McDonald’s is a brand that sits in the heart of its communities, and that needed to be reflected in the generosity of the overall approach. Our message is about the things that really matter at Christmas, ‘The Alternative Christmas List’ allowed us to bring real substance to that and not just talk about it in the film.
LBB> 'The Alternative Christmas List' will not only provide many families across the UK with free, fun activities but it will also be supporting charity partner BBC Children in Need. Can you tell us a bit more about this collaboration and its potential impact?
Andrew & James> We know this Christmas isn’t going to be a normal one for many families and children across the UK and Ireland. That’s why 10p from every download of the track is being donated to Children in Need. In addition to that, McDonald’s are committed to raising a minimum of £10 million over the next five years to help improve the outcomes for 100,000 young people across the UK.