If you’ve ever wondered why your McDonald’s burger doesn’t quite look at appetising as those pictured on the menu you’re not alone.
In response to a customer’s question, “Why does your food look different in the advertising than what’s in the store?” McDonald’s Canada created a behind-the-scenes video featuring the director of marketing Hope Bagozzi revealing the secrets of why their burgers look so much bigger and tastier in the adverts.
[Related feature: The truth about food photography]
Exploring the process called ‘food-styling’ the video reveals how burgers are prepared for hours and put together with absolute precision in order to look their best for photo shoots.
The video shows Bagozzi visiting a local McDonald's restaurant and buing a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. She takes it to Watt Photo Studios, the agency that has been responsible for McDonald's creative merchandising for the last seven years.
There, the burger is photographed side-by-side with one that has been prepared by the team at the photo studio to emphasise the difference.
Bagozzi tells viewers: “It’s a great question…. We get asked that a lot.”
“That burger [made in a normal McDonald’s] was made in about a minute or so. The process we go through on the average shoot takes several hours.
“I think that it’s important to note that all the ingredients are the exact same ingredients that we use in the restaurant. So it is the exact same patty, it’s the exact same ketchup, mustard and onions, and same buns.”
The delicate process shows the ingredients being stacked, with the onions, pickles and sauces placed at the edge of the bun so they can seen and the ketchup and mustard added using a syringe. Once the ingredients are in place, the cheese is melted using a heated palette knife.
A McDonald’s food stylist explains: “This way we can at least tell people you have ketchup, you have mustard, you have two pieces of cheese and you know what you’re getting.”
To complete the process a computer is used to retouch the burger to sharpen the image.
Bagozzi summarized: “Here you can definitely see that there is a size difference.”
“The boxes that our burgers come in keep the sandwiches warm which creates a bit of a steam and it does make the bun contract.
“And the main difference is that we took all the ingredients that are normally hidden under the bun and we pulled them to the foreground so that you can see them.”
Is this clever marketing or off-putting? Does this make you want a McDonald’s now?