McDonald's targets Starbucks attitude

Woman in McDonald's commercial targeted at Starbucks.

TEXT OF STORY

TESS VIGELAND: We've been hearing a lot about negative ads over the last few months.
Ads stirring up the culture wars in this country. Turning "elite" into a four-letter word. A new spate is about to come out. But not from the usual suspects. Rico Gagliano reports.


RICO GAGLIANO: The ads are airing as local markets roll out McDonald's new "McCafe" premium drinks. The spots are set in Starbucks-esque coffee shops. One features two hipster dudes, the other two stylish urban women.

WOMAN 1: You know, I heard McDonald's is making lattes now.

WOMAN 2: McDonald's? Well that's just . . . it's fantastic!

WOMAN 1: Now we don't have to listen to jazz all day long!

WOMAN 2: I can start wearing heels again!

Barbara Lippert is a critic for AdWeek media. She says competitors have poked fun at Starbucks before. But these new ads take things a step further -- to culture war in the coffeehouse.

BARBARA LIPPERT: It really seems to be in the Sarah Palin moment. Because all that is about anti-intellectualism and shootin' and huntin' . . . . And this is, you know, "Oh, we really always hated Starbucks, and thank God for McDonald's and a real American option.

Now, the ads were surely in development long before Sarah Palin hit the scene. And in a statement, McDonald's says it's simply trying to bring in "customers who may not be visiting us today for Premium Coffee."

Still, more than one ad expert makes the connection between the presidential and the McDonald's campaigns.

FAITH POPCORN: It's adapting kinda the campaign approach.

See? Faith Popcorn is CEO of market consultants BrainReserve.

POPCORN: I can't imagine that anybody could fall for this.

GAGLIANO: And yet, time after time, we've seen that people do fall for negative campaigns, you know.

POPCORN: But this is beyond a negative campaign, this is condescending, to say that they're not smart enough to go to Starbucks!

See you at the polls . . . I mean, coffee shop.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

About the author

Rico Gagliano is the host of Dinner Party Download.

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