May 29, 2008

Speaking of corn… Considering that the cows that provide the beef are fed a diet of corn and basically every other ingredient is sweetened with corn, you could argue that McDonald’s really serves cornburgers.

And speaking of speaking of corn, what a fortuitous billboard to drive past while having the above discussion:

a billboard, or a billboard like it????????
What is it supposed to mean? Is it some kind of puzzle where a picture of a Big Mac represents a certain value? Is it a rebus? I really can’t be sure.

The most obvious interpretation might be “100% beef”. But that would mean that “Big Mac” symbolizes zero. I doubt that suggesting McDonald’s’ flagship product equates to nothingness is what Ronald’s ad mavens had in mind.

Yet the only other plausible interpretation I could come up with [1] was “1% beef”, just outright ignoring the non-ASCII characters. [2] And that seems even more ridiculous, and even less like it would be the desired message.

But if it’s “100% beef”, it’s unclear what the percentage would be referring to. The only antecedent on the billboard itself is an entire Big Mac; buns, cheese, Thousand Island secret sauce, and all. Unless they’re making their bread out of beef these days, the overall beef percentage in a Big Mac is well below unity, regardless of whether you’re measuring by weight or volume.

A lot of these problems could have been avoided if they’d just used hamburger patties as zeroes, and put a huge Big Mac behind the text. Patties are a good deal rounder than entire burgers [3], so they’re a more straightforward stand-in for zeroes [4]; and equating a patty to zero wouldn’t be as belittling to the brand. Plus, the patties themselves are (or should be) an awful lot closer to 100% beef than the sandwiches as wholes.

Though now I’m tempted to try a proper hamburger sandwich (think “bread sandwich”, but with hamburgers rather than slices of bread).

* * *

[1] I’m assuming base 10 here. This billboard is from McDonald’s, after all, not Google.

[2] Is there a Unicode codepoint for “Big Mac”? How about “hamburger”?

[3] Were this a Wendy’s billboard, their square patties would present an entirely different set of problems. But that’s for a different discussion.

[4] Of course, zeroes usually aren’t perfectly round either, which I’ve been known to complain about in other advertisements. But no matter how you render your zeroes, they’re going to look more similar to hamburger patties than to hamburger sandwiches, so the point remains.


  • Meghan says:

    I stand by my original assessment that it’s just a creative way to dodge lawsuits. “Your honor, our billboard clearly states that our products contain one hamburger hamburger percent beef. Since ‘hamburger’ is not an integer, this is obviously intended to be interpreted as one percent.”

    I don’t know which prospect is more frightenting…McDonald’s serving hamburgers that are one percent beef, or McDonald’s managing to turn actual, unadulterated beef into gray hockey pucks.

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