Whether for good or for bad, we all recognise the products and branding of McDonald’s almost instinctively. The fast-food chain’s visual language is so recognisable in fact, that it can afford to be daring and playful with its campaigns, a fact that Karl Wolfgang Epple, of creative agency thjnk, exploited in a recent campaign for McDonald’s Germany.
Thjnk is the lead agency for McDonald’s Germany and the campaign includes three simple, stand-alone images depicting iconic McDonald’s products as emojis – another incredibly recognisable trope of modern life. Karl reached out to photographer Matthieu Lavanchy and The Gourmand’s Dave Lane after seeing their shoot irl for the publication’s latest cover story. “In the life of a creative, it’s not often that you are really jealous of an idea. When I saw the emojis from The Gourmand for the first time, I was totally thrilled,” Karl recalls. “[It was] a totally different approach to food photography. My thought was: Is it possible to persuade a big serious company like McDonald’s Germany to dare to shoot food in a ‘disrespectful’ way like that?”
Shot in London, the three resulting images feature a Royal TS (a German burger similar to the Quarter Pounder), a disposable cup and some french fries, shot by Matthieu in the same poppy style as the original series. Although appearing digitally fabricated, each item was cooked and styled by Seiko Hatfield with art direction by Marie-Therese Humer who decided how close the emojis should be to the original McDonald’s products.
Although obviously aesthetically pleasing, the campaign’s concept is also sound. We all use emojis in written text every day to express our emotions via the screen. The word emoji, however, originally had no relation to emotion; instead, translating from the Japanese for “e” (picture) and “moji” (character). The original emojis, therefore, were inspired by real-life objects and people and therefore represented the archetype of each. “This inspired our idea,” Karl explains. “For example, if you look at the french fries emoji: Why does it look like that? Why is it red and yellow? It’s because it’s heavily inspired by the original McDonald’s packaging.
“Or the sesame on the burger bun: an invention by McDonald’s,” Karl continues, “or even the disposable cup: invented by McDonald’s in 1948.” It was these facts that proved to Karl what ubiquitous symbols these products have become.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.