Grimace Heads to McDonald's for His Birthday Bash (Where Else?)

He's back, more purple than ever

Will a new generation get to meet Grimace, McDonald's shaggy purple spokes-thingy that looks like a fast-food-lovin' escapee from '70s Dr. Who?

Indeed, they shall! The wacky what's-it returns today in a birthday-themed, nostalgia-driven push from Wieden+Kennedy New York. (Grimace is turning 52, btw. But in branding terms, he's timeless.)

Here's a silly, well-done :30, with a Humburglar cameo (he's back these days, too) and a chatty order of Chicken McNuggets:

Does he eat the nuggets? They've achieved a kind of salty-crispy sentience!

“Our fans have amazing childhood memories of their birthdays at McDonald's, and Grimace's Birthday is all about paying homage to the fun moments we all share,” says McD's chief marketing and customer experience officer Tariq Hassan. "We're excited to put a modern spin on these memories to continue to drive McDonald's relevance with a new generation. Grimace is the perfect lovable icon to have McDonald's meet our fans at the intersection of nostalgia and culture."

That's just about right. When McD's PR nudge hit our inbox, we were all over it. So, it's a canny read on consumers of a certain age. 

Now, these characters aren't as beloved as, say, Sesame Street's Muppets, which have been popping up in ads left and right. Still, it's fun to see pop culture evolving and reinventing itself as brands lean into familiar tropes through the years.

It's comforting. Like fries that don't talk back.

"Celebrating Grimace's Birthday gave us a chance to show fans more of his character over time," W+K copywriter Nell Stevens tells Muse. "We were able to do it through the lens of 'McDonald's Birthday' nostalgia—pulling from fan favorite memories as Easter eggs in the spot (ie. the apple-pie Tree, retro uniforms, stacking clamshells game, etc.). Ultimately, it made for an idea that also feels relatable across ages and audiences, highlighting those celebrations with your friends and family at every phase of life."

She adds: "We've been working on this for close to a year. And when we started, I had one purple item of clothing. Shortly in, a lot of the team started wearing purple for important meetings about Grimace's birthday. Right after we got back from the shoot, there was an unfortunate laundry mishap, and in a poetic twist of fate, all of my whites turned purple. Every time I go to dry my hands on my now lavender hand towels, I'm reminded of Grimace and I cannot help but laugh. It feels like the most fitting end to this campaign."

The Grimace gambit includes:

  • A retro 8-bit birthday-cake-quest video game developed with Krool Toys.
  • T-shirts, socks and other merch.
  • Grimace Birthday Meals, complete with purple shakes. (Yum?)
  • In lieu of gifts for the big dude's special day, McD's asks fans to support Ronald McDonald House Charities. (Guess we'll have to return that lilac tie.)

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