Imagination coming alive

A few days ago, I had shared the list of 5 favorite books I read in 2020 and two of the books in the fiction list were by Blake Crouch – Run, and the Pines trilogy (that makes it 4 books!). There are 2 other books by Blake I read this year – Abandon and Recursion. Though I prefer his Dark Matter to Recursion (both have a very similar multi-time period jumping narrative), it’s the latter that is being made into a TV series.

I can understand why Recursion was chosen over the considerably better Dark Matter. Recursion is like Christopher Nolan’s Inception on steroids. Even as I read—or, to be specific, listened to, since my preferred mode of ‘consuming’ books is via audiobooks—the book, I pictured the scenes in my mind because they were so astoundingly imaginative and wild.

We now have AI that can write paragraphs of text for us based on a brief. In the near future, I’m sure we would invent technology through which we could create moving pictures/video through just our thoughts – we imagine and a computer/gadget conjures them as video, with all the details, that we can share. That would render the film industry obsolete, of course, but that’s for another day.

This was my thought when I watched this beautifully evocative ad film by McDonald’s France, made by the agency TBWA\Paris! Without spoiling it, you’d know what I mean when you see the ad.

Spoiler:

Considering McDonald’s adds only toys in Happy Meal in India, the specific context of books and McDonald’s may be lost on us, but imagine if they did offer books (the brand has been giving books in Happy Meals in France since 2015!) to understand the significance of the narrative. There is no other McDonald’s imagery anywhere in the ad – it almost seems like some other brand’s advertisement – I first thought it was for a mattress brand!

Source

But if we knew about books as being part of Happy Meals, we may appreciate it a bit more easily. Books (stories) open up a child’s mind (as much as a toy, but a bit more than a toy) and that’s the literal depiction in this ad – what we see is the child’s imagination as her mother narrates the bed-time story. That explains the fantastic setting of a cot on top of a river, the cloud above them offering rain only on them, and of course, the giant teddy bear.

The ending is so perfect – as the cot drifts towards a wall-like structure (reminded me of a scene from The Truman Show – the end of the ‘world’ in Truman’s ‘world’), the imagination merges into reality.

I mulled over why McDonald’s needs to make this ad at all for quite some time. After all, the books are not even from McDonald’s; they are from a partner (Hachette). But eventually, I considered the fact that this is not a linear or transactional communication – McD is far beyond that (even as they do that at a local level a LOT). This is a concept communication, about the impact of Happy Meals from the perspective of one of the most popular additions inside that pack that has nothing to do with food! Very few brands could pull off something like this… convincingly.

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