DDB/McDonald’s spot in Olympics opening ceremonies

Scene from McDonald’s Olympics opener

Let the Games begin. Starting tomorrow, most of the world’s sports enthusiasts (as well as many who have no particular interest in athletics) will turn their attention to London, England, where the 2012 Summer Olympic Games will formally commence with the usually thrilling opening ceremonies.

Even as Chicagoans no doubt still are wondering how their Olympic dreams went down the drain along with about $70 million used to chase them, London will be welcoming the world for no less than the third time to the modern day Olympics. So it goes for a truly world class city that genuinely appeals to the International Olympic Committee.

Lest you think the Olympics are all about the glory of sports and athletic competition, however, let us remind you NBC and its stable of cable channels are touting the fact they’ve sold more than $1 billion worth of advertising time for these London Games, which run through Aug. 12.

Yes, it’s quite clear the Olympics are a big and lucrative business for the network lucky enough to have won the rights to air the Games. Advertisers obviously have learned big events draw more eyeballs to television sets simply because they are big events that networks such as NBC have grown quite adept at positioning as big events with all their inherent made-for-TV drama.

McDonald’s, to its credit, was on board as an Olympic sponsor long before the big event syndrome took over with such a vengeance. And given the way things have played out, the fast food behemoth obviously has no intention of turning away from its sponsorship, even though the Olympics have become crassly over-commercialized in the eyes of some observers.

McDonald’s 90-sec spot airs during opening ceremonies

Scene from DDB/McDonald’s 90” spotCall it crass if you like, but McDonald’s has always tried to use its Olympic connection to burnish the brand. And this year is no exception.  For these 2012 Games, McDonald’s roster agency DDB/Chicago had the honor of producing the commercial that will officially kick off McDonald’s Olympic advertising.

Called “Rivals,” the 90-second spot will first air during tomorrow’s opening ceremonies.  “Rivals” is all about trying to capture the wholesome Olympic spirit of good, clean competition while underscoring the point that people everywhere love McDonald’s.

As have several previous Olympic spots from McDonald’s, “Rivals” uses children to convey its message that competition is alive and well among youth all around the world, as, of course, is the craving for McDonald’s and its food.

For about the first 75 seconds of this spot, we see scene after scene of youngsters in a panoply of picturesque landscapes all over the globe playfully competing with each other in long jumping, running, swimming, soccer, basketball and so on.  In each instance, the kids aren’t competing for gold medals, but rather a McDonald’s treat, be it french fries, a hamburger or a Happy Meal. 

Only in the surprise ending does the situation change just a bit, as two 2012 Olympic basketball stars LeBron James (who is playing for the United States) and Chicago Bulls team member Luol Deng ( competing for Great Britain) appear before a sea of flashing camera bulbs.  They turn to each other and — with big smiles — suggest the winner of the gold medal gets a Big Mac and fries.

“Rivals” has surprise twist at the end

Like several other spots that have come out of DDB/Chicago’s creative department under chief creative officer Ewan Paterson (himself a Brit), “Rivals” displays considerable visual sweep that inevitably serves to pull in viewers, especially those watching on large, high-definition TV sets.

The musical underscoring, while not the greatest piece of music we’ve ever heard, is cunningly arranged and orchestrated to  help build the drama and make viewers wonder what will be the payoff for watching all these images of young people competing for McDonald’s menu items.

The surprise twist with James and Deng near the end — the payoff in “Rivals,” if you will — doesn’t feel forced or overwrought.  Plus, it effectively connects kids playing in the real world to the heightened reality of the real Olympic Games. That’s a point also made in a single line of copy that appears on screen at the end:  “For the Olympic spirit in us all.”

Other McDonald’s spots for Olympics past may have more shamelessly milked the emotions of viewers (an approach that we don’t necessarily object to), but “Rivals” does a better job of linking the fast food company to the competitive spirit that makes the Olympic Games so special.

Agency credits: COO Ewan Paterson; ECD Bill Cimino; ACDs Travis Parr ­and Nikki Baker; art director, Curt Riemersma; copywriter, Matt Ben-Zeev; Diane Jackson, ­executive director of Integrated Production; Liat Ebersohl, executive producer. ­

Production credits: Production company, Thomas Thomas Films of London, Colin Gregg, ­director. The Whitehouse, Matthew Wood, editor; Dan Bryant, EP; Dawn Guzowski, producer. Sound design:  Another Country.  John Binder, sound designer/mixer. Filmworkers Club finished.

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com