Wednesday, August 11, 2010

McDonalds and DDB

A few weeks ago I was spending my time harping on McDonald's local food advertising campaign. I sent an email off asking about the campaign and just received a response from DDB's Seattle office:

Hi Keith, I understand you reached out to OMD regarding McDonald’s campaign in Western Washington called “From Here”. Is there something specific we can answer for you?

Laurel Yamaguchi

Laurel.Yamaguchi (at)
1000 2nd Avenue
Suite 1000
Seattle WA 98104
Office: 206 621 6482
Fax: 206 223 6309

This message led to my finding the official press release on grist, which also included contact information for the local McDonald's contact:

Paisley Madison.(425) 242-2409 or
paisley.madison (at)

I was very pleased to have this contact information, but not being a hard-hitting investigative journalist (like, uh, King 5's Gary Chittim...see link above to King 5's celebratory coverage of the advertisments), I didn't know exactly what to do with it. "Shame on you guys" doesn't work so I thought I would invite them out to see some real local food production, like what Alleycat Acres does, so they could see the movement they were co-opting in person. Anyhow, here's my response and I hope you write one too:

Hi Laurel,

Thanks for the message.

First, I'm not sure if my initial email included any biographical information. I'm a second-year Ph.D student in the Built Environment program at UW, with an interest in consumerism and urban space, so I'm spending some time looking in to advertising. I also do some community arts organizing through a modest blog I run, called the People's Parking Lot.

This ad campaign is especially interesting because while I don't doubt the validity of the claims, I know many folks involved with local food/urban agriculture who see this as outright co-optation of work they do daily, for which they are typically unpaid. In fact, as municipal regulations stand, they can't even sell food grown in the city; they can only consume it themselves or donate it to food banks (I believe the city council is currently discussing and might have even ratified legislation that will change this for the better, allowing them to create CSAs or sell at famer's markets, cooperatives, etc).

To see McDonald's "highlighting" what appears to be a coincidental relationship (please correct me if I'm wrong) to locally-sourced food is frustrating in light of such work, so I was hoping to find the agency responsible for the campaign, and if they were local, maybe invite some of the managers and designers out to see a real local food operation. Here's a video produced by GOOD magazine of my favorite urban agriculture collective, Alleycat Acres:

The founder of the group, Sean Conroe, is copied on this message and though I'm writing this without his knowledge, I'm sure he would love to show you all around.

For Ms. Madison at McDonald's, whom I have also copied: I am curious if McDonald's has any plans to develop this ostensible commitment to local food, or if this is a one-off situation reflecting what's currently popular among many younger Seattle residents? Furthermore, I think you too might appreciate seeing Alleycat Acres in action, as they convert vacant lots and backyards into small farms.

Thank you both for your time, and I look forward to your responses.

Keith Harris
Ph.D. in the Built Environment program
University of Washington

I'll share any responses I receive. In the meantime, back to Park(ing) Day Central Park!


  1. That is a great letter, Keith. I look fwd to their response(s) and hope you post on f/b when you hear somethng. I want to read it.

  2. Any response? The anticipation is killing me!

  3. man, none yet. i'll re-send it and see!