Mac Tonight was a mascot introduced by McDonald's restaurants in 1986.
The campaign was created locally for California McDonalds franchisees by Los Angeles firm Davis, Johnson, Mogul & Colombatto. Intended to increase the after-4pm dinner business, the first 4 spots were shot in late 1986, with the first airings in early 1987. With the success of these spots on the west coast, McDonald's spread the campaign nationwide in the U.S. in the summer of 1987, and shot 2 more spots to add to that run. With more success nationwide, more and more spots were shot, and the campaign went throughout all McDonald's territories worldwide by 1988.
This initial blast lasted over 3 years through spring of 1990, with a re-visit to the character, including newly produced commercials in 1996 and 1997. He had a crescent moon for a head, wore a suit and sunglasses, and was depicted as being a jazzy lounge singer, also partially inspired by the 1980s television character Max Headroom. The name was a play on words of the song "Mack the Knife", made popular in America by Bobby Darin. The song that played over the advertisements, called "It's Mac Tonight", was also a variant on that song, but with McDonald's-themed lyrics, such as those featured in the original 1986 commercial:
- "When the stars come out to play, babe
- A twinkling show, ooh -- dinner! -- out of sight
- Yeah, the night time is golden light time -- big dipper!
- At McDonald's (showtime), it's Mac Tonight!"
Other lyrics include this set from a 1987 commercial:
- "When the clock strikes half past 6, babe
- Time to head for golden lights
- It's a good time for the great taste -- dinner!
- At McDonald's, it's Mac Tonight
- Come on, make it Mac Tonight!"
Mac Tonight is the only character in the McDonald's world to not appear in the McDonaldland advertisements.
In 1989 Bobby Darin's son, Dodd Mitchell Darin, claimed that the song infringed upon his father's trademark without prior permission and filed a lawsuit as well as an injunction for the song to be removed from both TV and radio ads.
Mac Tonight no longer appears in commercials in the United States, as a result of the injunction, but pictures of him can still be seen in some McDonald's restaurants, and on some smaller signage by some restaurants' drive-through entrances/exits.
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