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McDonald’s Nostalgic 1955 Burger Ads

The first customer at Ray Kroc's first McDonald's in 1955.

[Update: McDonald’s put out a press release on the campaign a few hours after BurgerBusiness.com posted this item. The company says this is a “pan-Nordic” campaign created by DDB Oslo for Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. I’ll still wager the burger and the campaign come to the U.S.]
Is McDonald’s planning to bring its 1955 Burger to the U.S.? The answer appears to be yes, unless you believe the chain has gone to a lot of trouble to impress Swedish burger lovers with a trio of English-language TV spots. The commercials feature folks with connections to Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s, which opened on April 15, 1955, in Des Plaines, Ill. 

Since Des Plaines isn’t exactly a top-of-mind vacation destination for the residents of Stockholm, you’d have to guess that this campaign is an off-Broadway tryout before coming to televisions much nearer to you and me. 

McDonald’s has been adding the 1955 Burger—topped with grilled onions, bacon and barbecue sauce—to its menus across Europe after first putting it on the menu in Germany last fall. The rollout has been accompanied by TV commercials in German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. But not in English. That the Swedish commercials are in English, with Swedish subtitles, seems a tipoff that they’re destined for reuse elsewhere. 

Lester Stein and his wife

The commercials themselves are nostalgic and folksy in tone, and in their recreation of the chain’s beginnings they are interesting counterpoints to this week’s McDonald’s “Hiring Day” program to recruit new crew members. In one spot, Glen C. Volkman recalls being the first guest at the first McDonald’s, which he recalls being “a restaurant like we’d never seen before.” At the window he was asked what he wanted and he says he answered, “What do you have?” McDonald’s simpler, pre-ubiquity days can be experienced in the new 1955 Burger, which Volkmann calls “A tribute to the beginning.” 

Debra Arnolds and her mother in "their spot" at the original McDonald's.

Debra Arnolds and her mother in "their spot" at the original McDonald's.

In another spot, Lester Stein remembers working at the first McDonald’s in the summer of 1955. To get there, he cut through a neighbor’s yard and eventually married the neighbor’s daughter, who came to McDonald’s to buy shakes and to flirt. In the third spot, Debra Arnolds remembers that Sunday burger meals at this new restaurant became a family tradition. They always sat at the same spot in the days when McDonald’s had only outdoor seating. 

Expanded reminiscences by Glen Volkman, the Steins and Debra Arnolds and her mother are included in a “Tribute to the beginning” documentary posted on McDonald’s Swedish Facebook page

It’s likely these English-language commercials are the work of lead McDonald’s agency DDB. Its partner shop Heye Group created the original 1995 commercial shown in Germany. TBWA/Madrid created spots used in Spain, Italy and France.

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