A Tale of Two McNuggets Commercials

For McDonald’s being the shameless mega-corporation that gets sued all the time and makes people fat, they’re a marketers wet dream as far as brand recognition and global identity is concerned. Ask my mom what a “Chipotles” is and she’ll stare at you blankly, even though I’ve taken her there twice; ask her what McDonalds is and she’ll show you the mailers she gets in the mail talking about McChicken sandwiches in Chinese.

McNuggets seem to be popular marketing tools to Asians; burgers and fries are distinctly American things, but a McNugget — with its amorphous shape and mystery white chicken substance — don’t really have pre-existing cultural associations. Like, it’s chicken, and it’s fried. What else can you do with that? Market the fuck out of it, apparently.

So when 8A reader Brian sent us an e-mail asking for opinions about the McDonald’s Kung-Food commercial that played during the Olympics, it reminded me of a previous commercial back in 1986 for McNugget’s Shanghai. I sent both videos to the mailing list to see what they had to say:

Ben: I never saw an issue with the Olympics McDonald’s commercial. I actually thought it was pretty well done and it brings what most people like about the Chinese culture (everybody was kung-fu fighting, those cats were fast as lightning…)
Joz: The Kung Food one is gross because that literally girl literally kicks the chicken nugget and yet later they both try to eat it. Yuck! Keep food away from foot!
John: I thought was cool, because of 1) Chinese kids, 2) It’s in the context of China, 3) The Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon theme is something Americans have gotten used to through Ang Lee’s films or Kill Bill, 4) It’s during the Beijing Olympics and 5) The commercial actually aired in China, as opposed to the other commercial.
Joz: Why isn’t anyone else offended by foot near food?!?! It’s disgusting! Would YOU eat food that some little girl touched with her foot?!?!? YUCK!
John: Hey, less than five seconds, although that was disproved this year.
Joz: I’m sorry, five second rule does not apply to FEET! Contact to feet, DO NOT EAT! Do you like my rhyme to help you remember that?!

Ben: Eh. Not really my thing, but you can’t really blame them for going that route considering where Americanized Chinese food is these days.
Joz: The McNuggets Shanghai just shows how it was ok to be totally culturally insensitive back in the 80s. It’s okay to use “orientalness” to sell your McNuggets even if (pretty much) none of your other commercials ever show Asians. And showing non-Asians attempting to use chopsticks is funny! Chop chop! Har har! (Gag). This does, however, explain the disposable McDonald’s Shanghai chopsticks that I recently found in a drawer at my Grandma’s house. I think those chopsticks are about 25 years old! Oh, and I would like to know what the difference is between a regular fortune cookie and a “McFortune Cookie” is.

Incidentally, the McNuggets Shanghai promotion only lasted for a month, probably because giving McNuggets chopsticks and a fortune cookie STILL MAKES IT A CHICKEN McNUGGET. It was replaced by a promotion for “Fiesta” McNuggets, which were McNuggets served with a sombrero hat commemorative coin. If there is nothing these 1980’s campaigns teach us, it’s that we live in a much more politically correct time, because that shit would not fly. Or those glasses, either.

I won’t lie, though: that McNuggets Lovin’ commercial? Kinda awesome, I’m just sayin.

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About Ernie

I'm the creator of 8 Asians and one of the editors. While I'm a regular blogger to the site as well, think of my role as Barbara Walters on "The View," except without the weird white hair. During the day, I'm a Developer for a major Internet company and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've also been writing in my blog, littleyellowdifferent.com, for seven years.
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