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Mindy Kaling Stars in McDonald's Ads That Don't Mention McDonald's, Because Millennials

The ads were apparently designed to take advantage of Millennials’ habit of playing on their phones while they watch TV.

If you write "That place where…" on Google, the search engine will suggest "That place where ghosts of salmon jump," "That place where pain lives" and, at the top of the list "That place where Coke tastes so good."

That's the one that McDonald's hopes you're currently typing in an open browser window, after seeing one of its new 'unbranded' advertisements that feature Mindy Kaling talking about McDonald's without actually talking about McDonald's.


The fast food giant has released three new commercials based around the phrase "That place where Coke tastes so good," and it's banking on everyone being curious enough to do exactly what the final screen suggests: searching for it online. The payoff is a list of blogs about why the Coke at McDonald's is better than at other fast food restaurants—although the results have been slightly skewed by recent coverage of the campaign. (Instead of of online discussions about the superiority of McSoda, the first page now includes write-ups about the "That Place…" ads, along with the link to a YouTube channel called "That Place Wh– aw, you know.)

Why is McDonald's doing this? Mostly because it can, and because MILLENNIALS. Debra Wahl, the now-former chief marketing officer for McDonald's, told the New York Times that the ads were designed to take advantage of Millennials' habit of playing on their phones while they watch TV. "They are very influenced by word of mouth and what their peers say," she said, because if you're a connected twentysomething, your peers are apparently Google and YouTube.

Wahl also swears that Google had nothing to do with the ads, and McDonald's did not pay them to manipulate, tweak, or otherwise interfere with the search results. "What they're helping us do is understand if people are really searching as a result of this, and offering close feedback and collaboration in terms of what's happening with this with real behavior," she said.


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Even without speaking the word "McDonald's," without a single product shot or set of Golden Arches, the ads are still sort of unmistakably McDonald's. The background is the deep red of a box of French fries, and Kaling's yellow dress would successfully camouflage her if she casually leaned against those arches.

Kaling is a solid casting choice, because she has a long and well-documented McRelationship with the chain. (I have wanted to be her best friend ever since she sat in a McDonald's parking lot, filming a fireworks display that was framed by the drive-thru signage. "I am the American dream," she tweeted.) She has also served a variety of McDonald's meals and shakes at wrap parties for The Mindy Project and celebrated her 36th birthday with a party at the restaurant.

Kaling's love for McDonald's is so well-known that Conan O'Brien once asked her if the company was giving her Big Macs filled with cash. "You tweet a lot about McDonald's, to the point where I think you're on their payroll," he said, during her 2015 appearance on the show. "I believe that maybe McDonald's is paying you. Like, you're a cool celebrity, you've got a good following of young people. Are you in McDonald's pocket?"

At the time, the answer was no, although she admitted to eating there often. "I'm single, I want people to think I'm cool, so I go like twice a week, maybe," she said. People still think she's cool, even though she may be a paid endorser now. (When she tweeted about the ads, she jokingly asked if she could be paid in fries.)

So yeah, McDonald's is "That place where Coke tastes so good." It may or may not be "That place where pain lives too," I don't know. Google it.

MUNCHIES has reached out to McDonald's for comment on the ads but has not yet received a response.