From the opening shot of a McDonald’s restaurant (followed by restaurant interiors), it’s clear who’s paying the bills for “The Originals,” a made-for-the web series now showing on Facebook and YouTube.
Created for McDonald’s Canada (which promotes it via Twitter), the series follows two young guys, Jason and Bryce, who are preparing to pitch an idea for a TV show. If that sounds like a “Seinfeld” episode, well, consider that “The Originals” is described on its own site as “An original web series completely lacking any originality.” It’s not strong on subtlety either. Jason and Bryce are planning their pitch at McDonald’s, which Jason calls their “creative HQ,” because it has great food and coffee and free Wi-Fi! How convenient. Jason used to work at McDonald’s. It’s also where he met his girlfriend, Carina, who is glimpsed at…guess where…enjoying a fine McCafé beverage. McCafé, having just recently been introduced throughout Canada, gets heavy exposure in the episodes (there have been two so far).
The product placements are heavy handed if ultimately harmless since this is basically an extended-play McDonald’s commercial after all. But only briefly at the end of each episode is the chain’s connection with the project formally disclosed, via a board explaining that the series is produced “in association” with OMD (that would be McDonald’s media buyer, Omnicom Media Group), Canadian production group Fresh Baked Entertainment and McCafé /McDonald’s.
McDonald’s has tried this cyberspace-series strategy elsewhere before. Two years ago, the chain created “Macca’s Chef” online series in Australia. It also went the “buddies” route, following a pair of McDonald’s (often called Macca’s in Australia) trainees, Steve and Chris. “Dreaming in Mono” in January 2010 was more ambitious and less overtly McDonald’s sponsored. With a convoluted story about people seeking to eclipse an old ski record, the online series was pitched to consumers in four Scandinavian countries.
With McDonald’s USA this week dipping its toes in the daily-deal waters with its LivingSocial coupon effort, the chain has let its rivals know once again that it has the budget as well as the intention to use all available media to remain No. 1.