McDonald’s Christmas campaign has returned this year and tells an emotional story of a young boy called Tom. The ‘Inner Child’ TV advert pulls on the heartstrings, with a mother desperately trying to encourage her teenage son to take part in family rituals in the run-up to Christmas. We take a look at the advert by running it through our advertising testing methodology AdProbe.

The AdProbe results show that the ‘inner child‘ storyline is highly impactful. McDonald’s has achieved the highest ‘Sadness‘ rating we’ve recorded to date. However, interestingly it also has a high enjoyment rating which highlights the uplifting qualities of the story. our analysis shows that emotive advertising (including Christmas ads like John Lewis and McDonald’s) tend to exceed normative scores – highlighting the extra impact emotion can have on advertising effectiveness.

McDonald’s “Inner Child” created by Leo Burnett, is an animated modern-day festive tale following the story of a young boy called Tom who faces an internal struggle with letting his inner child go. Tom’s mum tries desperately to get him into the festive spirit by hanging decorations and browsing a Christmas market. It is clear his inner child would love to join in but he refuses to let himself join in. A quick stop at McDonald’s helps lift his spirits and he slowly starts to listen to his younger self.

As the day goes on, Tom lets his inner child take over and helps his mum decorate the tree and cuddles her on the sofa. He even suggests leaving some of McDonald’s reindeer treats (carrots) out for Santa.

The advertising is part of the #ReindeerReady campaign which has been running since 2017 but it could be argued the campaign has had a greater prominence form 2019 onwards when we saw a switch from ‘real’ human characters to cartoon animations.


Emotion Is The Answer

We’re now seeing a strong relationship between advertising success (i.e. advertising effectiveness) being driven by emotion.

The hero advertising of old, which are reminiscent of Hollywood blockbusters, appear to be on the wane. This isn’t to say either style is right, or that either of these directions (or indeed another) wouldn’t work. However, there is an ever-increasing number of emotional adverts hitting our screens and many are achieving cut-through. Christmas is the perfect time for emotion, as our analysis of John Lewis’s advertising shows, but we’re seeing this leak into campaigns outside of the holiday period and throughout the year.

There are signs as a nation that given the current Covid-19 pandemic, the nation has become more altruistic and caring – and as such more attuned to emotional advertising. Needless to say, emotion is becoming a more noticeable and powerful tool for marketers, but like all campaigns, if your advert hasn’t gone through the research with products such as AdProbe to see how your target audience feel and develop the advert alongside the findings, you could be facing with an “emotive” advert that isn’t pulling on anyone’s heartstrings, rather an egg on your face.


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