“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 night 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.