Like McDonald’s, media can connect with families through honest storytelling

By Cathy Colliver

Courier-Journal Media, USA TODAY NETWORK

Louisville, Kentucky, USA


My favourite ads are those that incorporate storytelling, but also keep things simple and honest.

McDonald’s and TBWA/Paris received a shout out from ad industry publication AdWeek for their commercial “La Porte” (“The Door”). The commercial shows a set-up, conflict, and resolution sure to be familiar to anyone navigating parenthood the second time around.

Being a parent to a young child is hard.

Being a parent to two young children is more than twice is hard.

“The Door” shows a girl feeling left out when a new baby arrives. After shutting herself in her bedroom, Dad tries to coax her out by slipping a message under her door.

Yes, it’s McDonald’s, and, as AdWeek points out, offering McDonald’s to an upset kid is an easy out. However, the story is simple, honest, and entirely relatable. And the resolution is both sweet and also relatable. Sometimes the best moments with your kids are shared over a quick meal.

It reminded me of another McDonald’s commercial that is now almost a decade old. The 2008 spot ran as part of the Summer Olympics schedule and featured a youth football game. The green team totally vanquishes the grey team, and celebrates with a massive gold trophy. The grey team sits looking dejected until a resourceful father arrives with a tray of bright, beautiful Happy Meal boxes. Suddenly the grey team members are winners, and life is great.

This commercial brings me delight because as a mother, I know life’s little disappointments can make your child feel like they had the worst day ever. But I also know a little treat, along with a pep talk, can go a long way toward turning that around.

Both of the ads tell the story of everyday parenthood navigation and life’s everyday challenges. And they do so in a way that is authentic and relatable, funny and sweet. Stories like this can move parents to direct action, as well as maintain a spot in the ongoing consideration set when a parent wants to connect with their child over a special treat.

How is this relevant for news media companies?

Families are a very good fit for news media companies. They are a growing audience category based on sheer size, as well as the diverse cross-section of “younger” generations we are all trying to engage as new customers. It also doesn’t hurt that many of our advertising clients want to reach this audience as well.

So how do we connect with families? News media companies offer a lot of content, events, and experiences that are highly relevant to families with children of all ages. The key is determining how you tell your story to this audience in a relevant way.

You may have great content around things to do, education, school and camp guides, healthy lifestyles, travel, student athletics, volunteer opportunities, and local news that connects your community.

Looking at this list could feel overwhelming, and you can’t necessarily tell the story about all of these things. Things become clearer when you start by understanding your customers’ motivation. Pick a focus area where you truly stand out and uncover the story within that topic area that demonstrates how you make a family’s busy life easier or more enjoyable.

How do you help families connect and enjoy special moments? That’s your story for families. Keep it simple, authentic, and relatable, and you will build a connection through storytelling with families.

About Cathy Colliver

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