People are still debating this clever McDonald's sundial ad

McDonald's is a brand that's well known for its clever billboard ads. Over the years, the fast food giant has run campaigns that have been funny, iconic, eyebrow raising and just plain ingenious. This one falls into the latter category.

We're so used to seeing billboards on the streets that it takes something a bit different to really get our attention and make us remember the piece. This McDonald's billboard from 2007 is getting a lot of love on Reddit for doing just that, as it's one of the few billboards that could be said to actually be useful. It tells the time (this is one for our collection of the best billboard advertising).

Designed by art director Vince Cook and the agency Leo Burnett, the ad features a metal McDonald's 'M' precisely placed horizontally on top of the billboard. The added structure casts a shadow that follows the movement of the sun like a sundial. Six images of McDonald's products numbered from 6 to 11 allow us to tell the time. 

At 6am when the sun is low, the shadow falls almost parallel to the top of the billboard, meaning that it's time for a wake-up coffee. At 11am, the shadow will fall to nearly vertical, hitting the bagel (it appears the branch in question is only a morning McDonald's, after 12, the shadow would fall on the other side).

Now we don't expect the precision of a Swiss watchmaker here, and the billboard would likely only work for part of the year, but it's a clever and helpful aid to remember what time breakfast ends at Maccy D's, and there's no denying that it does the job of getting people's attention and sticking in their minds. After all, people are still debating it fifteen years on.

"This is the most gangster, outside-the-box representation of advertising that I've seen since the Dracula billboards," one person wrote on the Reddit thread. "Kudos for the concept. The closest similar execution I've seen is the descending snake god in the Mayan pyramid at Chichen-Itza during the equinox," someone else noted, suggesting that the addition of a tagline along the lines of 'time for McDonald's' would round the piece off to perfection.

Some aren't convinced, though "This feels like a dystopian nightmare," one person responded. "Looks like the ice cream machine is broken all day," someone else jested. Others have noted that the shadow of the M looks like a devil's trident, particularly against McDonald's brand red. It reminds many of the Queens of the Stone Age's Songs for the Deaf album cover. "Am I the only one who thought 'Satan eats at McDonald's' when I saw this?" one person asked.

McDonald's should also know that's it's playing with fire whenever it refers to the time it serves breakfast until. "Breakfast still served at 11?!?! I am always turned down at 10:30. This is false advertising," someone argued. "I guess it’s just too bad that BREAKFAST CUTS AT 10:30 SO WHY YOU ACTING LIKE I CAN GET A BAGEL SAMMIT AT ELEVEN HUUUH?" someone else demands to know.

Whether you like McDonald's food and its breakfast policy or not, it's hard not to be impressed with the brand's continual marketing creativity. We regularly see it serve up stunning billboard and print ads. Meanwhile, last week were amused by the cheeky branding on the 'vegan McDonald's' Mr.Charlie's and the drunken McDonald's ads launched in Australia.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.