"Why havent you made a post about that annoying CUNT that is voiceovering the McDonalds ads????His churpy disposition while plugging corporate crap is beyond fake and contrived!! Come on stop moaning about James Martin ripping cyclists and get to the real route of evil!"
So spake Kirsty in a missive to me earlier this week. And she's got a bloody good point. Not about James Martin, who deserved the monstering he got recently because of his past misdemeanours and continuing Asda adverts (seriously, what is he doing in these people's houses?). Because that chirpy voice on the McDonalds' voiceovers has making me dig my nails into the palm of my hands until I draw blood for several years now.
It's a voice that has almost certainly been focus-grouped to death, a voice deemed sufficiently non-threatening, familiar, colloquial and trustworthy. Exactly the same sort of voice you could imagine ordering a Big Mac, complimenting a barmaid on her smile or overcharging you for some roofing work.
A Brexit voice; a working-class Tory voice. Perfectly nice feller, but don't get him started about the Poles. Three kids, and one he never sees from a teenage dalliance with Suzy 'Melons' Mellor in the back of his Focus ST.
Works as a plasterer and odd-job man these days but he's had loads of jobs. Got an NVQ in construction, learned his trade as a plumber's mate and built his own patio.
Drives a Ford Transit these days, but didn't pass the entrance exam at Dagenham. Throws his daily copy of The Sun in the front window, like a fry-up and a beer, packs three different England shirts for the annual family holiday to Spain.
Does this person exist? Apart from a marketing persona drawn up on the back of a fag packet by various agencies as exactly the sort of south-eastern C2 they'd like to attract to their brand (pictured above), no. But they're all character details and traits I can imagine went into identifying this voiceover and everything said voiceover needs to communicate. If that voice doesn't align with the offering and connect with the audience you might as well not bother.
Consider, for example, the McDonald's voiceovers spoken by Donald Sinden, David Hyde Pierce or Gwyneth Paltrow. Imagine Sue Lawley doing the McDonald's advert voiceovers. Derek Jacobi, Alan Bennett or Paul McGann. These are all people who earn a lot of money using their voices. But throw them into a McDonald's advert and it's just weird.
So we end up with a cockney Dave and the myriad associations it's possible to make with a friendly, everyday voice that sounds seconds away from slipping into 'apples and pears' and 'me old china'. A voice that says things like 'McDonalds is just like you' and 'eating something called a Happy Meal at the age of 45 is a perfectly reasonable thing do to' and 'associate McDonald's with being English, even though it's an American-based multi-billion multinational'.
There's a rabbit off though. Because in the latest set of McDonald's adverts 'Dave from Essex', as his persona is surely called, isn't doing the voiceovers. There's no voiceover at all on this effort, which suggests that a McDonald's burger at 5am after your soul-destroying nightshift is a familiar, welcome reward, rather than a grim, coming-down, drunken or knackered calorie top-up somewhere out of the rain.
And what's this? It's one of those Donald Sinden-style voices I was talking about earlier in this new advert that's happy to crap all over The Jam's That's Entertainment. It's a rather different sort of McDonald's advert - one that's trying to align Maccies with rewards and even, unlikely though it may seem, as the sort of thing you deserve to celebrate the end of a day, a birthday or reunion.
Let me say this now. If you want to meet me for a coffee, a meal or just to hang out with a gang of friends - and then suggest we go to McDonald's - I'd think you're either clinically insane or five years old. If someone in a group of people I'm with prior to wedding suggests a little trip to McDonald's I'd think they're still drunk from the nigh before. And if someone Skypes me from a McDonald's I'd assume it was a cry for help.
I get that McDonald's is easy - especially if you have two shrieking kids in the back of the car. I get that it's often the only place open and I can understand that people find a sort of comforting familiarity in their sugary, empty-calorie foodmatter, even if I think they're barking mad.
I get Dave from Essex and that vile little whistle. You know where you are with it. Even though it's the worst voice you can ever hope to hear, short of Nigel Farage turning up on your doorstep supping some ghastly warm southern beer and chomping on a McNugget.
Edited to add: Incidentally, put the subtitles on while watching this latest ad and you get all manner of violent malapropisms, a couple of which I'd included below. Half like a Fall song; half like the random scribbles of a US gun nut prior to a mall shooting.
Look, I know, right? They're only doing their jobs and it fell to someone in the retained agency Stella Artois employs to come up with a catchphrase. There had to be a catchphrase, a hashtaggable piece of blah that people could electronically write at one another whenever something amazing happened. Something that conveyed all the heritage, excitement, aspirational and 'fucking hell!' All encapsulated in one crapulous assortment of letters.
Just Do It.
The client had said something as good as 'just do it' - quotable, meaningful and concise and brilliant in equal measure. And the people knew they could never come up with something as good but they had come up with something so they started to brainstorm. When they could have been walking in the beautiful British countryside, enjoying a great pub lunch, reading a great book or just having sex - they were brainstorming instead.
And someone in a room about half a mile north of Euston stopped gnawing on their pencil and said '........ #belegacy'? And someone wrote it down on a whiteboard with a bit of a crinkled nose to suggest they thought it sucked balls but felt tipped it next to the other ones anyway.
And seven people looked at the hashtags and felt a well of sadness in the pit of their chests and looked out across London; for a second they faced up to what a colossal waste of time and energy it all was and teared up as they thought of fields, beaches, friendship and the baby birds in the early summer trees.
They thought of being six, 11, 18, 21. Times in their lives when anything could have happened. They could have done any job, gone anywhere, been with anyone and done anything. Before the job, spouse, car and house that now defined them. Before hashtags.
And then they thought of the deadline and the client and the bonus and the graphic designers waiting for the brief. And they knew the graphic designers longed to create quirky, minimalistic magazines about food, bikes, tech and architecture. And they knew the graphic designers would have to make these utterly insignificant gestures of marketing fart, which would then be returned by a client making just enough changes to make their job seem meaningful.
— Harry Wallop (@hwallop) July 4, 2016
And they thought of the people who would hear #belegacy - and they knew the people would hate it and see through it and they knew they'd have to do it anyway. They'd have to approve #belegacy and tweet it and actually say it while looking enthusiastic, for God's sake. And they knew there'd have to be an app. And someone would have to be paid half a million dollars for Facebooking, tweeting and Instagramming #belegacy with some pictures of beer and sunsets.
And they thought of being children, and they thought of love and family and the meaning of it all and they thought of being dead.
And a little switch flicked off for a fraction of a second and then flicked back on again. And they nodded and wrote things down and agreed that Jasper would action that item and left the room.
And they looked down at the streets below and thought how the people and cars looked like ants. And they knew whatever happened from that point onwards there would always #belegacy.