RetroAnalysis: The McD.L.T.

The McD.L.T. is an interesting forgotten relic. Introduced in 1985, it was McDonald’s attempt to introduce something of a premium burger; the first in a string of failures that later included the Big N’ Tasty, the Arch Deluxe and the recently-axed Angus Third Pounder.

The ill-fated burger was pretty unremarkable, strictly as a product. (The Marketing Smart Aleck sampled the sandwich once or twice back when he was The High School Smart Aleck.) The offering’s real legacy was the ultra-cheezoid advertising that supported it. McD.L.T. commercials live on as prime examples of some of the corniest TV advertising conventions of the Reagan Era. Consider this spot with a non-bald, thoroughly un-Costanza-like Jason Alexander waxing euphoric about the McD.L.T. in a hap-hap-happy song and dance number:

And what screams, “Mid-Eighties!!!” louder that that flashiest of flash-in-the-pan sports heroes, William “Refrigerator” Perry?

Yikes. The “humor” in that spot was even broader than The Fridge’s rear end.

With hindsight being 20/20 and all, it’s easy to see why the McD.L.T. failed. For one thing, it seemed to be hanging its hat on gimmicky two-compartment packaging based on the shaky premise that consumers saw any benefit in keeping two sides of a burger separated until the instant they were ready to eat it. Also, it appeared to be attempting to establish a position in a category that probably did not exist in the mind of consumers at the time (or since): “Lettuce and Tomato Hamburgers.” That distinction may or may not have been considered a real value proposition among fast food industry types, but to the average person, it’s just a hamburger that happens to have lettuce and tomato on it. BFD.

Still, there is some value in understanding how to keep the hot side hot and the cool side cool, if only metaphorically. For that bit of wisdom, and for giving us the most unintentional laughs of Jason Alexander’s career, the McD.L.T. deserves to be remembered.


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