McDonald's Turning Brand Placement Into Junk

David Kiley

McDonald's Corp., reports Advertising Age, has hired an entertainment marketing firm to get hip-hop artists to integrate its the Big Mac sandwich into their upcoming songs. My fingers are pinching my nose as I tilt my head upward.

Isn't this exactly what smart marketing people have been warning against? Hamfisted, forced product placement in songs, books and TV shows that feel like the artist/writer/producer has clearly and obviously been bought and paid for by the sponsor?

The firm, Lanham, Md. based Maven Strategies, has reportedly approached record labels, producers and individual artists with the idea, which calls on them to write lyrics around the sandwich?s name.

As I have written in this space before, I happen to think McDonald's, for all the flack it gets about the childhood obesity problem, has a perfect right to sell Big Macs. But here's where the logic of this hip-hop plan jumps the rails for me. McDonald's just kicked off a campaign to advertise healthy eating and promoting physical activity to couch potato kids. Statistics are pretty clear that the obesity problem is especially bad among minorities in urban neighborhoods, arguably because there are more fast food joints in poor neighborhoods than produce stands and good quality supermarkets.

Hip Hop music and culture certainly transcends minority consumers and city neighborhoods. But the timing and juxtaposition of the two efforts is striking.

Music acts, reports Ad Age, will not receive payment upfront. Instead, they will earn anywhere from $1 to $5 each time their song is played on the radio. Maven executives say they have received numerous songs for consideration. McDonald's gets final approval of song lyrics. Yipes!!! What happened to the anti-establishment rappers? Is it all about the money and nothing else now? Is this really the spirit of Tupac?

But before criticism gets heaped on McD's for the seemingly contradictory efforts, let's just look at Big Mac peppered hip-hop lyrics as a really bad idea for everybody, and especially for the music. What if an artist sets out to write lyrics that rhymes Big Mac and "heart attack." Will he or she get paid? How about, "A Big Mac a Day keeps the ladies away, cuz when you're too fat, she's gonna tell you to scat. Cuz fat aint phat. Cuz fat aint phat. Cuz fat aint phat."

Will they only get paid for rhyming Big Mac with "snack" or "track," as in "Get your life on track with a delicious Big Mac?" If a rapper cuts a video talking about Big Macs and uses footrage of the late Biggie Smalls, the infamous and enormous rapper, will McD's pay up?

And will the artists who sign on for this deal still deserve to be called "artists." I don't think so.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.