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The secret to a camera-ready burger? McDonald's tells all

New video is part of an effort by McDonald's Canada to satisfy customers' curiosity.

June 23, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times
  • A split-screen comparison of a store-bought McDonald's Quarter Pounder and one assembled from the same ingredients in a photo studio.
A split-screen comparison of a store-bought McDonald's Quarter… (McDonald's )

That McDonald's burger from your neighborhood drive-through never looks quite as luscious as the picture-perfect sandwiches in the fast-food giant's advertisements.

Now customers can see why in a new behind-the-scenes video produced by the fast-food giant that has garnered more than 3 million views on YouTube.

Whipping billboard burgers into shape is an intensive process not unlike priming a model for the Sports Illustrated cover: A team of stylists is required, as are several hours of precision artistry.

The explanation is part of an initiative by McDonald's Canada to "open the virtual doors" and address customers' growing curiosity about food along with "the prevalence of myths," said spokeswoman Karin Campbell.

"The growth of online and social platforms facilitates the asking of questions and the getting of answers — that's how customers engage," Campbell said. "That conversation is already happening. We really want to be part of it."

The video, meant to "demystify the process of advertising," is a "small piece" of that effort, she said.

In the video, Hope Bagozzi, director of marketing for McDonald's Canada, walks viewers through the studio magic used over several hours to plump and primp a Golden Arches burger to its mouthwatering max.

First, Bagozzi picks up a Quarter Pounder with cheese — probably made in about 60 seconds — from a Toronto McDonald's for comparison. The "steam effect" from the box "does make the bun contract a little bit," she says.

Then Bagozzi rides a van to the Watt International photo studio, where the same ingredients are being used to carefully craft a similar burger from scratch.

Food stylists and photographers labor over the sandwich, melting down the cheese with a warmed knife, strategically applying mustard and ketchup with a syringe and slanting the bun to highlight the ingredients.

"It's like you're a surgeon in there," Bagozzi says at one point.

For the final touch-up, colors are digitally enhanced and imperfections in the bun smoothed out on a computer.

The resulting contrast between the burgers, both photographed by the same cameras under the same lighting, is stark. The store-bought sandwich is noticeably deflated, its condiments invisible under the weight of a dull-looking bun and a droopy glop of cheese.

McDonald's Canada — a separate operation from the fast-food behemoth's U.S. business — recently launched a section on its website where customers can pose questions publicly.

The video was shot in response to one of the questions; others include "How much food do you deep fry in a day?" and "Why does it take unnaturally long for your food to spoil?"

Stay tuned.

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