McDonald's - Pee Wee Football

January 26, 1992 | 1:30

McDonald's and Leo Burnett take 90 seconds to tell a story in this Super Bowl XXVI commercial, perfectly suited to link enthusiasm for the real game's action with possibly warmer feelings.

A minute and a half of Super Bowl time remains the exception to the rule, given the costs involved. CBS averaged $800,000 per 30 seconds of time for the 1992 game.

But the extended time also gives creatives a much bigger canvas with which to work -- even if it can be demanding, as USA Today reported in a 1994 article about longer ads:

To write a good 90-second ad, "you just entertain a lot more," says Leo Burnett copywriter Jim Ferguson, who wrote McDonald's pee-wee football ad for the 1991 Super Bowl. 

Some 90-second ads aren't planned to be that way. "You set out to do a :60 and ... sometimes you see the bones for a much longer spot," says Ted Sann of BBDO, which creates advertising for Pepsi-Cola, General Electric and DuPont. "I'd be surprised if somebody did a media buy for a :90 and said, `let's do a :90.' " 

Longer isn't always better. McDonald's wanted to expand last year's "Showdown" Super Bowl ad - Larry Bird and Michael Jordan in an ever-escalating game of horse - into a 90-second ad to be shown in movie theaters. It didn't work. "It dragged," Ferguson says. If an ad isn't originally planned to be 90 seconds, "you don't think of the number of gags that you need."

For Ferguson, the storytelling of "Pee Wee Football" led to a very unexpected result, as the Baltimore Sun's John Eisenberg later recalled:

The next morning, Jim was on the phone when his secretary handed him a pink phone message slip.

"Call Steven Spielberg," she had written.

Jim's first reaction was, of course, that it was a prank. But the phone number was in California and Jim dialed it and, sure enough, Spielberg wanted to talk to him.

It turned out that a light in Spielberg's head had lit when he saw the McDonald's commercial.

"I want that commercial made into a movie," Spielberg told Jim. "I want my 'Home Alone.' "

Ferguson would go on to help write Spielberg's "Little Giants," which hit theaters in 1994.

McDonald's next Super Bowl ad, "The Showdown" of 1993, also made a big impression.

Send credit info to SuperBowlAdArchive@adage.com.
  • BrandMcDonald's
  • Year1992
  • AgencyLeo Burnett
  • Superbowl #XXVI
  • Quarter airedQ2