Modeling for McDonalds in Taiwan
August 14, 2006
In an attempt to do something that I had never done before, I spent a day modeling for an ad agency in Taiwan that was doing a promotion for McDonald's. This was my wife Nina's fault, of course: she had visited Leo Burnett (the agency) to try to promote her work and one thing led to another. They were looking for a western model for a promotion and discovered she had an American husband. She sent off a few pictures of me and since they didn't know any better, they gave me the one-day job.
They first brought me in for a ``fitting'' at 11:30. It was then that I learned what they wanted me for: they wanted an ``eskimo'' (actually, an Alaskan) for a poster they were doing for McDonald's stores in Taiwan in September, 2006. Great. It's 100F degrees outside and they want me to dress up in a really warm jacket, hat, and scarf. The fitting went fairly quickly (they just wanted to make sure the colors they had chosen were reasonable and that I looked something like what they were looking for), so Nina and I went to visit some friends until 6:00 PM, when they needed me back at the photo studio for the actual shoot.
There's actually quite a lot of irony here: having grown up in Minnesota, which is routinely colder than Alaksa in the winter, I'm actually a reasonable stand-in for an Alaskan. I certainly have the experience of wearing really warm jackets like the one I'm pictured in.
They sat me down, applied makeup (!) and then started shooting. I guess I did OK, but they kept wanting me to smile bigger, which is hard when you can't hear anything from the tight hat and you're boiling under the hot lights. They turned the air conditioner up full blast and pointed a fan at my feet and it was still very hot.
After four hours, they finally got what they wanted. There were about eight other people in the studio all working on this including the photographer, the hard-working stylist, who was constantly retouching my makeup, fussing with the crazy hood she had sewn onto the jacket, an art director or two, somebody from McDonald's, and a bunch of assistants.
The hood was a good story: they wanted a furry hood, but the jackets they could find didn't have a hood that was furry enough. So they got a mink stole and wrapped it around the hood on my head. I think the stylist quickly sewed it in place, but we had to keep moving it around.
It was an interesting experience, but I wouldn't want to make a living being a model. My face ached for days from trying to smile wider.
The ``fish'' campaign for which this photoshoot was done turned out to be fairly substantial. Not only was I on a poster, but also on large banners at McDonalds across Taiwan, and the McDonald's Taiwan website. Specifically, they had a sub-page just for the promotion.
The posters, banners, etc. were put up on September 1st, 2006. Nina and I went for a walk through downtown Chunli to visit the McDonald's there. We found two that had my photo up: a large one at a major intersection that had two banners outside and my poster inside, and a smaller one that just had the banner. As we were visiting, some Taiwanese high school girls looked at me and asked Nina, ``Is that him?''
In fact, this whole episode can be attributed to Nina's networking skill. The fully story goes like this: Nina went to Italy to attend a children's book conference. There, she met the head of the society of children's book illustrators in Taiwan, who invited her to give a lecture. Nina accepted, and at her lecture in July, she met an illustrator who had worked for Leo Burnett, the ad agency. This illustrator referred Nina to the right people at Leo Burnett, who happened to notice that Nina had an unusual (i.e., western) last name and asked if her husband was a westerner since they were looking for a western model.
Of course, all the professional images shown here are copyrighted by McDonalds or the ad agency and shouldn't be used for anything but looking at. If anybody from McDonald's in Taiwan (or elsewhere) reads this, know that I enjoyed working with such a professional group, which was a big part of why I wanted to do this. Plus, it makes for a good story.