Can I Get a Cheeseburger with a Side of Irrelevant Advertising?

Aug 8, 2014

While brands have been plotting their plan of attack for the release of Instagram’s new advertising platform, select advertising partners, like McDonald’s, have already engaged in preliminary testing. The math seems simple: Millennials + Instagram + Corporate Advertising Budgets = Tons of sales, right?

Well, not quite.

The response to McDonald’s recent #instaads for their Bacon Clubhouse can only be described as a #burgerbacklash. The core complaint? None of the ads were relevant enough to viewers, and they sullied the once-pure realm of Instagram where users only had to interact with branded content if they wanted to.


To put the quality in context, the ads seem like the byproduct of cheeseburgers superimposed onto images we can only assume were the result of a naïve parent Google-searching for the phrase “photos of millennials.” While Mickey D’s may have succeeded in touching on Generation Y’s affinity for electronic music festivals, the caption (as seen above) creates a fundamental disconnect – mainly because burgers don’t glow. The image does little to help Millennials understand why they should eat or buy the burger so much as it does shallowly associate the product with a trending topic.

The message, overall, is muddled and unconvincing: Should I be dancing with my burger, or do I just stand there holding it, covered in glow sticks while posing for pictures?

Another major issue with this campaign is that McDonald’s was one of the first entrants into the Instagram advertising pool. Much like Facebook and Twitter, there was immediate backlash from the platform’s user base upon the realization that their newsfeed content was, to some extent, no longer in their control. The distance between brand and potential consumer grows even farther apart when (unwanted) paid ads suddenly see appear in place of content users actually value i.e., posts from other users they have a relationship with.  It’s up to social media professionals to create that same sense of friendship and familiarity – except with the brand.

If mobile advertisers are going to ‘fluidly’ integrate their content without disrupting the user, the goal, ironically enough, should be to fit in – not stand out. #Instaads will be at their optimal use when they are more subtle and resemble other posts within the user’s newsfeed. Why? Because chances are, at 9:25am, your friends are not out (at night time) taking pictures of a cheeseburger’s reflection off someone’s sunglasses – like the “relevant” ad below implies.


As marketers, we have to laugh at what a science targeting Millennials has become for many brands. Selling a cheeseburger shouldn’t lead to such an overwrought campaign. By not taking into account the fundamental context of cheeseburgers, eating, the company isn’t doing itself, or its target demographic, any favors.

If I were McDonald’s, I’d probably toss this one out the window… but first, let me take a burger selfie:


What do you think about McDonald’s #instaads campaign? How do you think the new ad flow in user feeds will impact Instagram’s popularity?

Comment below or send a tweet to @thinkinkpr.

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