Rebranding happens, but rarely this sexily and creepily. That’s what makes McDonald’s new hot-dad version of the Hamburglar such an advertising curiosity. Yeah, he’s a hot dad. Not a guy with a “Dad Bod,” which I’m told is a thing now, but an actual father. Also, his wife has certain things in common with Ronald McDonald. She’s not a clown, but he’s not a meat-thieving guy in a costume, so the whole thing reads creepy.
Let’s step back a moment.
What I know from personal experience is The Hamburglar was one of several costumed characters deployed along with Ronald McDonald in the days of yore to sell fast food to children. I remember The Hamburglar trying to hoard all the hamburgers in McDonaldland, and I remember the hard plastic version of him that was in the playroom inside the restaurant. He was obviously there to sell me hamburgers, the Fry Guys were there to sell me fries, and Grimace was probably put on this planet to plaster his namesake on customers’ faces.
Good thing there are geeks of all types out there, and there’s this thing called the internet, because, of course, there is a McDonald’s Wikia.
I now know that The Hamburglar is a spin-off of an older character called “The Lone Jogger,” who was re-branded in 1985 to the round-faced, red-haired, single-toothed version that I remember. The Lone Jogger was older and would go around muttering, so during the rebranding, that muttering was transformed into something distinct and marketable for the new incarnation: “robble robble.”
The 1985 character lasted until 2002 when he was retired from television advertising and McDonald’s began to grapple with what the Wall Street Journal calls its “Millennial Challenge.” The long and the short of it is that McDonald’s profits haven’t been doing so well with sharp downward spikes in 2003 and last year. There’s a new CEO in town named Steve Easterbrook, and his mandate is to turn things around.
This is how the Hamburglar died.
New Hamburglar is a cool dad who will be appearing on TV in spots for the Sirloin Third Pound Burger, online in McDonald’s video ads, and popping up randomly on social media wherever McDonald’s food and the hashtag #RobbleRobble can be found.
Like, look at his grand introduction:
Wait, is this who we think it is??! https://t.co/rc9xhQrAUi
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) May 6, 2015
A red-haired, red-lipped, yellow-bloused wife? Are we to believe the Hamburglar is somehow psycho-sexually attracted to Ronald McDonald?
Who’s lovin’ it? It wouldn’t be wrong, it just calls into question who this Hamburglar reboot campaign is for. In a media climate where a lot of other properties from the late 1980s and early 1990s are rebooted to appeal to Millennial nostalgia and kids simultaneously (Transformers is the most successful at this transition), such a drastic change to the round-faced Hamburglar is startling. He looks like a villain on the TV show Gotham now.
Give me your wallet, Gordon! And by wallet, I mean hamburgers.