Features

My favourite ad of all time: The McDonald’s ‘Baby Swing’ from 1996

The unique ad was originally made for the Super Bowl – it was a big hit in the United States and so was then aired in Asia too after it had been localised, explains Eddie Wong

It was 1996. I was working in Hong Kong.

Those days, I did a lot of television watching as the TV set was one of the only two screens that was available. And of course, I couldn’t resist following my favourite TVB and ATV dramas when I had the time.

However, just like most viewers, I often walked away from commercial breaks as there’re just too many shitty (sorry) ads out there.

It was on a Saturday night as I clearly remembered, I was catching up on my favourite TVB drama. I stood up, about to walk away from the commercial break. However I was instantly mesmerised when the ‘Baby Swing’ commercial came on.

Swinging in the baby-swing to the Rock-A-Bye Baby tune, the Chinese baby swings forward and puts on a happy smile. As he swings backward, he cries. As he swings forward again, his eyes light up.

Soon, as he swings back, tears form in his eyes. A reverse cut finally reveals that the swing is actually facing a window. When the swing comes forward the baby can see the McDonald’s golden arches. When it swings back he can’t.

That was a brilliantly simple idea. And who say babies don’t know what they want to eat? This one does.

The ad was originally made for the Super Bowl. It was a big hit in the United States and so was then aired in Asia too after it had been localised.

Reshot with Asian talents, the ad was very well received by audiences here as well – proving it’s universal appeal. Although with some markets, an added scene of a mother attending to the baby was needed at the end of the commercial because (as tested) culturally it wasn’t right to leave a child unattended.

There has been many great Super Bowl ads over the years, but other than ‘Baby Swing’ are there others that have actually moved beyond the Super Bowl to other markets? Not that I know of.

Using babies in commercials might seem like a cliche to some. However, this work goes beyond cliche to entertain viewers of all ages. In general, people find it hard to resist the attractiveness of an adorable child smiling and crying on the screen. My colleagues, my friends, my family and almost everyone young and old around me were talking about it for a long time. They were all highly entertained by the concept and execution.

And ‘Baby Swing’ was a big winner in more ways than one. It won the hearts of both consumers and awards jurors – scooping every major advertising awards gong, including the Film Lions Grand Prix at the 1996 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

A brilliant idea lasts forever and this work will do exactly that. It’s a classic. Thanks Leo Burnett.

Wong applauds the McDonald’s ad

Eddie Wong is the former chief creative officer of MullenLowe China

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