Daily Insights

The Drive-Thru Meet-Cute

By: Alizah Asif Farooqi | Jan 26, 2021

“Do you want fries with that?” takes on new meaning in McDonald’s latest digital campaign, “Sebas & Alicia”. The Spanish campaign spotlights its drive-through service as not only a place for pandemic-safe food pickup, but also, for pandemic-safe romance—another hot commodity in an era of social distancing. 

The commercial follows shy Sebas and his friends on a seemingly routine food run to McDonald’s. After receiving a free packet of french fries from Alicia, the drive-through attendant, Sebas falls in love. The spot sees Sebas return to the same McDonald’s time and time again for another dose of flirtation and fries. Eventually, Sebas summons up the courage to ask Alicia on a date on his next McDonald’s run, and though he’s disappointed when he learns the free fries were simply part of a promotion, viewers get the idea that the two will eventually reunite when the pandemic ends. The commercial concludes with a pan over the duo’s names written in the starry sky (fittingly, in french-fry yellow) above the glowing restaurant drive-through. 

Though convenience once ruled the restaurant industry, safety now reigns supreme, as observed in “Sebas & Alicia”, which highlights this aspect by making the drive-through a recurring theme of the modern love story. In fact, more than any other element, including convenience and promotions, customers that tried drive-through and curbside pickup during COVD-19 did so out of health and safety caution, according to Gartner’s key findings report on restaurants. 

The tale also addresses another recent major consumer concern—cost—with the inclusion of the freebie fries with every meal ordered. Indeed, promotions of deals and discounts catapulted from 15% adoption to 47% in the restaurant industry. Loyalty programs also focused on financial benefits as quick-service mavens like McDonald’s sought to capture loyalty from increasingly price-conscious customers. Last but not least, “Sebas & Alicia” speaks to the scarcity of human interaction thanks to the pandemic. By serving the story with a healthy side of young love, the campaign may strike a note with introverted viewers looking for a moment of magic amidst the loneliness of lockdown.

The 20-second commercial, which comes in both bite-size (ten seconds) and full size (three minute) versions on McDonald’s Spain’s YouTube and social channels, did face some criticism, however. Viewers expressed some disappointment in the fact that though Sebas and Alicia were careful to keep their masks on and only interact in a reserved way, Sebas and his friends do not don masks in the car. Though the corporation has demonstrated other forms of social commitment in the past and the trio of friends could also be cohabiting, this ad does not clarify. One thing is clear, however. The drive-through is the next digital frontier. To learn more about how restaurant brands shifted communication during the Coronavirus pandemic, register and tune in to Gartner’s complimentary webinar this Thursday, January 28, 2021.