McDonald’s Emoji Billboard Backfire

Billboards are an effective way to advertise, and can help spread brand awareness. Over one-third (37%) of consumers report looking at an outdoor ad each or most of the time they pass one. However, they can also backfire, as McDonald’s recently found out.


The fast food chain recently debuted billboards written in emoji — those little ideographs you can text to people, which have become incredibly popular amongst young adults and teens.


The “Good Times” campaign was a seemingly great idea. Not only were the billboards written in the language of the demographic McDonald’s wanted to reach, thereby increasing the level of brand engagement, but emoji could easily be used to tell a story in a simple, visual way that’d make people stop and think. The more people thought about McDonald’s, the more likely they were to wind up going there, after all.


Emoji have become so popular, and so expressive, that there are now emoji art exhibitions, and emoji music videos, in addition to emoji billboards. In February 2013, the Library of Congress even accepted “Emoji Dick,” a translation into emoji of Herman Melville’s classic seafaring novel “Moby Dick.”

The ill-fated McD’s billboard showed a car emoji, followed by a roadwork emoji, and then another car emoji followed by another roadwork emoji, and so on about six more times until it showed a crying emoji with a comical amount of tears. Next came a depiction of McDonald’s gold arches, then an emoji, and a smiling, happy emoji…


… and lastly, an emoji painfully vomiting.


The last emoji was not, as you might have expected, a part of McDonald’s original message, but rather an addition made by a graffiti artist.


Images of the redone billboard has since gone viral, and even inspired others to make their own McDonald’s stories, many of which end similarly. There are a lot of queasy emojis, skull emojis, and toilet emojis being used.


Good times, indeed.

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