The World’s Strangest McDonald's Commercials

McDonald’s advertisements from outside the US can get pretty funky

Some Japanese commercials for the fast food giant have been on the stranger end of the spectrum.

While we're not positive that McDonald's is the first place you should visit when traveling internationally, if you did, you'd see some variations on the familiar burger and fries routine, reflecting a location's culinary traditions. Some offerings don't sound half bad, like Nicaragua's Mango Pie — their variation of our apple pie — and the Paneer Wrap in India, but among the more unusual offerings are Russia's McShrimps, Japan's Bacon Potato Pie, Turkey's McTurco with lamb meat, China's Chicken McMuffin, and Hong Kong's Rice Fantastic, a burger between two rice patties. And just as the menus vary around the world, so do McDonald's television commercials.

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McDonald's commercials in the United States have long been associated with energetic people enthusiastically crowding into a booth, happily devouring their paper-covered Big Mac. The tone is upbeat, the kids are wholesome, and everyone is thrilled to be under the bright McDonald's lights. We've been treated to jingles ranging from "We do it all for you" to "I'm lovin' it" over the years; we've even been assured that we deserve a break today. Even for those who don’t eat there, McDonald's advertising has made its way into our subconscious.


The fast-food giant has trotted out beloved characters, most notably their red-haired mascot Ronald McDonald, for kids to grow attached to and further promote their family-oriented advertising. Sure, many of us think clowns are really creepy, but... well, wait — in McDonald's first TV spot, circa 1963, featuring Ronald, he really is creepy. He doesn't look much like the Ronald we've come to know, but has a more patched-together scarecrow look, with hay-like hair, a paper cup for a nose, and a large tray on his head. (The role was originated by Willard Scott, long before he became the TODAY Show's weather man.) Ronald has had many makeovers since those days, but has long since settled on the basic uniform of a yellow jumpsuit and red-striped socks. This character set the tone for the family-focused ads that we've become familiar with over the years.
However, there is a whole other world of McDonald's advertising, several worlds in fact. Although McDonald's started in the United States in the 1940s and has been a fast-food standby ever since, it now has restaurants in 119 countries. And all those folks in all those countries need to be advertised to! Surprisingly, McDonald's doesn't always stick with the happy-go-lucky, cramming-food-into-your-mouth advertising we're accustomed to in the U.S. While some of the ads employ humor, certainly, and many do evoke an upbeat mood, it seems that other countries are not afraid to go off-theme and try different methods of getting a viewer's attention. A little darker, a little sexier, a little more offbeat — these commercials are not quite what you may expect.