McDonald’s Products Are So Popular, They Autocomplete Themselves

Or do they?

Headshot of Angela Natividad

McDonald's is celebrating its "all-time favorites" with a campaign that tells us just how much everybody loves Chicken McNuggets and strawberry milkshakes—without saying it outright.

Each print ad, from Leo Burnett London, features a dead-simple shot of a classic McDonald's food item, just above a search bar with a couple of letters typed in. What you're meant to notice is that the first autocomplete result is always the product's name … because people are way more interested in French fries than French kissing! 

The campaign plays on the idea that a search engine's autocomplete feature will feed you what people are most often looking for. Thus, we're tacitly told that strawberry milkshakes are more often sought than star signs, and Big Macs more than the Big Bang. 

It's a deceptively simple idea that collapses the longer you think about it. People run searches for stuff like the Big Bang and star signs because there's something they want to know, not just because they like them. Why would you search for a food so common that it's likely available within walking distance to you right now? Probably because you're looking up ingredients—an entirely different subject, and probably not one of McDonald's favorites. 

The autocomplete tactic has also been used before, most notably in 2013, when Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai created the powerful "Auto-Complete Truth" campaign for UN Women. In that instance, a search engine, superimposed over women's mouths, completed charged clauses like "women cannot," "women shouldn't" or "women should." It resonated in part because it was inspired by actual results. 

Since that campaign came out, Google suspiciously refuses to finish phrases like that, at least for us—which is a tribute to the impact "Auto-Complete Truth" had. 

But it will complete a couple of letters for you, like "st" or "qu," though it's more likely to spit up what you as an individual are most likely to search for, making it less easy to peer into the zeitgeist. In our case, the letters "st," which so conveniently bring up "strawberry milkshake" in the McDonald's ad, yield "stranger things nostalgia" (a recommendation we're pretty happy with, and that we actually did look up a couple of weeks ago). 

This either means the results are made up for the brand's convenience, which damages the core message—that McD's is so beloved, it basically owns autocorrect—or that someone at Leo Burnett is so into Big Macs that they've spent time running searches for it. (Which is likely; it's a client, after all.)

In any case, nice try. Maybe nobody will actually whip their phones out and check for truth.

See other variants below.


Client: McDonald's

Agency: Leo Burnett London

Creative Director: Matt Lee & Pete Heyes

Art Director: Darren Keff & Philip Meyler

Copywriter: Darren Keff & Philip Meyler

Board Account Director: Simon Hewitt

Senior Account Manager: Emily Reed

Account Manager: Vicki Sinclair

Agency Producer: Sarah Ioannou

Photographer: Malou Burger

Producer: Hazel Corstens

Typographer: Stathi Kougianos 

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@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.