In the course of making Good Things — a 60-second McDonald’s spot that celebrates African American culture and forms part of the restaurant’s social space 365Black.com — Burrell Communications Group utilized the same kind of spontaneous optimistic creativity that the commercial is intended to portray.
Directed by Joe Pytka, a long-time master of McDonald’s commercials, the spot opens with a stark montage of African American teens in a neighborhood where the writing on the wall literally declares, “no future.” The kids bump fists and tag bricks in alleys and shadows before ultimately leading viewers to a fresh new destination that earns the line, “You spread lovin’ where you live.”
“There’s a lot of negativity coming out of African American neighborhoods. The media likes to play those things up,” explains Burrell CCO Lewis Williams.
“We thought it would be a great idea where you would think maybe this is where it’s going, but then the young people show us, you know what, ‘We care about this neighborhood.’”
Concluding with a message that was not written until the final day of production and moving to a soundtrack that was selected weeks later, the work is a testament to artistic collaboration.
“We actually came up with the final idea on the night before the shoot,” Williams says. “We just kept working on ideas and ideas and, maybe 11 o’clock, we found one that had a lot of impact and everyone agreed on.”
The “final idea” is a large mural with the word “Love” on the side of a building. It is a pivotal element to the commercial’s original concept — described by Williams as “this whole misdirection” — that Burrell had pitched to McDonald’s weeks earlier.
As the teens finish painting the mural at sunrise, a friend arrives with breakfast from McDonald’s. Sharing the meal becomes part of the celebration of their achievement.
Shot in LA by Pytka’s production company, visionary artist Refa1 was tapped to create the climatic mural and to deliver the voiceover. He is part of AeroSoul, an “international African diaspora spray can art movement,” that provided many of the artists featured in the piece.
The Colonie’s editor Bob Ackerman collaborated closely with Williams and the Burrell team. “The most challenging thing was to balance the mood,” he says.
The boutique’s entire editorial and finishing services became a crucial part of the seamless workflow required for a quick turnaround.
Footage was received on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the same day that Ackerman presented a cut to Burrell and, one day later, Burrell presented to McDonald’s. Ultimately, few changes were made from the original.
After wrapping production, Burrell determined that Marvin Gaye’s legendary ode to urban frustration, “Inner City Blues,” was perfect for the spot. “It’s not just a piece of music,” Williams explains, “but a real song with a storyline in itself.”
With the storytelling of the edit and the powerful Gaye soundtrack, “We knew we had something special,” Williams says.
“I applaud our client for allowing us to produce such an authentic idea. Reviewing the cut for the first time brought tears to our eyes.”
Burrell credits: CCO, Lewis Williams; GCD, Rebecca Williams; CD/writer, Lisa McConnell; digital creative director, Tim Sheridan; ACD/art director, Winston Chueng; producer, Debra Dale; digital producer, Carlo Treviso; print producer, Cheryl Blockus.
The Colonie credits: Creative editor, Bob Ackerman; finishing, tom Dernulc; EP, Mary Caddy. Visual FX, animation, The Colonie.
Finishing: Color correction, Filmworkers Club; color grader, Michel Mazur.
Audio and sound design: Mixer, Sam Fishkin.
Pictured above: Refa1 on the set of McDonald’s “Good Things”