McDonalds x California Golden Poppies


Written by Kinsey Sullivan
18 Saturday 18th February 2012

With an alluring blend of iconography, illegality and implication, Sean Click’s ad for McDonald’s caught and spread like wildfire. 

Because of California legislation protecting its state flower, it is reportedly against the law to pick, destroy or otherwise remove the poppies. In fact, it appears that the only way to remove the ad is to plant more flowers around it or wait until the flowers grow out of the shape. 

The ad also has the feel of street art; even the idea of seedbombing references the graffiti term 'bombing'. The difference is that this campaign exploits a loophole in the law and exists, protected, inside it. The fact that McDonald’s is such an endlessly controversial company, especially in regards to its environmental impact, makes an ad using flowers that much more sensational.

When researching the ad, our first surprise was that it doesn’t actually exist. Sean says he drafted the concept image in Photoshop to illustrate his vision, and show that this sort of advertising could and would gain attention. 

“I kept hearing about Super Bowl ads being hyped on the internet before they aired on television. I thought that my idea could garner some attention on the internet just like the Super Bowl commercials... I submitted my work entitled ‘McDonald's X California Poppy Seed Bomb Ad’ to NotCot ... and it broke pretty much instantly,” Sean says. 

Milwaukee River Keeper's paste-up ad 

Our second surprise was that the ad wasn’t commissioned by McDonald’s. In fact, Sean only used the McDonald’s logo because he was interested in using the poppies. The creation of the ad was driven by a desire to use vegetation as an advertising medium, and play with the idea of the dirt as canvas. “I am fascinated by the idea of using different forms of vegetation or flowers to design creative looking advertisements that don't cost much to implement,” he says, “eco-advertising could have it's place in helping beautify areas and getting people's attention. Most people like the idea of planting flowers and looking at them.”

The buzz surrounding this image is based almost exclusively on the ads implications. It’s neither physically existent - and thus not illegal - nor explicitly for McDonald’s, the two primary sources of the controversy. Though that does alter the importance of this particular campaign’s hype, it doesn’t necessarily take away from the idea itself. It says more about the hype machine and the blogosphere than it does about anything else. 

Coca-Cola's 60 x 60 ft. billboard covered in Fukein tea plants, Phillippines.

Though advertising for McDonald’s with flowers may not be the wisest idea, using vegetation as a medium is worth thinking about. Ads that interact with the environment are both eye-catching and increasingly common. Taking it a step further may make such ads a step better. Although they’re more difficult to implement and more reliant on perspective than a simple billboard or flier, ads made of flowers are potentially both more eye-catching and more environmentally friendly. 

Sean says he’s in contact with other companies about launching similar campaigns, but only time will tell whether this idea can really spread. 

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