McDonald’s Petaluma Commercial

Yea or Nay?

Petaluma gets another 30 seconds of fame in McDonald’s commercial

The skycam captures the bucolic scene: A cool old farm truck with a hay bale in the bed, rolls through Petaluma’s green hills. An aproned shopkeeper sweeps his sidewalk in front of a vintage-style sign.

“Nestled away in Northern California, in the quaint town of Petaluma, you’ll find a locally owned restaurant where people come together for a great sandwich: fresh grilled egg whites, melted white cheddar, all on a toasted muffin,” the soothing voiceover coos.

He’s talking about the 250-calorie Egg White Delight sandwich from McDonald’s.

“Lovin’ is local,” the ad says.

Locals will recognize the downtown Petaluma clock tower, the Mystic Theatre and the Kentucky Street storefronts.

Never mind that Petaluma’s two locally owned McDonald’s franchises are nowhere near downtown, nor situated on walkable tree-lined streets. (They’re both in large shopping centers on the city’s east side.)

The 30-second ad, airing in both English and Spanish, has created quite the buzz around the county’s second-largest city, which prides itself on quality, homegrown cuisine.

“Well, now that is lovely,” snarked Jon Bixler on the Positively Petaluma Web page. “Let’s see if we can’t promote some of the local businesses. You know, the ones that hire local, purchase local, deposit their dollars local and participate in their local community. Is this really who we want to be associated with?”

But others raved about the good pub for P-Town.

“I love it, too!” Michael Von Der Porten posted on The Press Democrat’s Facebook page. “Eighteen seconds of promotion of Petaluma and good food — country scenery, quaint streets, local shop owner sweeping. Only then does McDonald’s logo appear.

“Petaluma and Sonoma County couldn’t afford any national advertising that will have this reach. Sonoma County tourism should benefit from this! How about, ‘Egg White Delight? Yes, and so, so much more in Sonoma County!’ ”

The ad comes at a time of sweeping changes for the world’s largest restaurant chain, which has more than 36,000 outlets, about 14,000 of them in the United States. A new CEO took the reins of the 60-year-old company last week as same-store sales have fallen over the past five years and many consumers seek healthier, more socially responsible options.

Also last week, the company announced it plans to require chicken suppliers to stop using antibiotics important to human medicine within two years and it will no longer serve milk from cows treated with a specific artificial growth hormone.

The company has long battled negative perceptions about its potentially unhealthy food, but that has become a bigger vulnerability as more people shift toward options they believe are made with higher quality ingredients or are more socially or environmentally friendly.

Enter Petaluma — a town of 60,000 that is no longer small but still strives to be in many ways. A town that values its rich agricultural history but also wants to tap its high-tech and gourmet aspects. A town that promotes walkability but one that takes 20 minutes to traverse, on a good day.

Maybe Petaluma should adopt the Roman god Janus for its mascot. Janus is depicted as having two faces, looking to the past and the future.

That’s about where the debate — passionate, heated, sometimes rude and mean, often facts-be-damned — about the McDonald’s commercial has landed in the land of butter and eggs.

Santa Rosa resident Anne Convery said she saw the spot and couldn’t help but be surprised to see it was set in Petaluma.

“I kind of feel like Petalumans would characterize Santa Rosans as more the McDonald’s type, so I guess I was a little tickled, in a playfully mean and schadenfreude kind of way,” she joked.

But seriously, she said, most of her favorite locally owned “and awesome” restaurants are in Petaluma — Wishbone, The Tea Room, Central Market, Water Street Bistro, Mi Pueblo.

“I can’t think of anything that characterizes Petaluma LESS than McDonald’s,” she said.

It’s about as earnest as when Applebee’s “scrounges up a picture of the local fire department, circa 1910, blows it up to poster size and tries to brand itself as a neighborhood place,” she said.

Local radio personality Brent Farris of KZST posted a link to the commercial and was astounded at the vitriol.

“I was stopped everywhere and told how McDonald’s does not represent Petaluma, they should take it off the air, I should be ashamed for telling people about it, etc., etc., etc.,” he wrote in an “open letter to the whiners in Wine Country.”

Get over yourselves, he said.

“It shows the beauty of Sonoma County to the world,” he said. “It makes me proud to live in a place so incredibly gorgeous that a huge company like McDonald’s, with stores in the greatest cities in the world — Paris, Rome, London, Prague — would want to film here. … They chose Sonoma County to highlight a product that is healthier and more flavorful than what we believe they are capable of selling.”

While he said he can’t remember the last time he ate under the Golden Arches, the ad put him in a mind to try the Egg White Delight.

Much of the online venom has been directed at Petaluma’s leaders, saying the town “sold out” to corporate interest or suggesting the town was paid big bucks for the production. It wasn’t.

Petaluma and Sonoma County are popular filming locations, because of the natural landscape, well-preserved period buildings and an “everyman” look that can double for a Midwest street or Italian countryside.

Marie McCusker, executive director of the Petaluma Downtown Association and Visitor’s Program, has taken no small bit of grilling for defending the ad and Mickey D’s portrayal of Petaluma. Her agency helps film production crews through the city permitting process and regulations that require filming doesn’t unnecessarily disrupt other businesses.

“McDonald’s does not represent Petaluma as a community, but they are part of it,” she said. Both McDonald’s in town are owned by local residents.

“I am certain that whilst we aim to keep everyone happy, it’s not possible, and yes I do agree that our brand here in Petaluma is one of local first and wholesome hometown authenticity,” she said. “The reality is that we do have corporate here — many owned by local franchisees.”

She said she doesn’t think the ad will prompt tourists to flock to Petaluma to gobble up Egg White Delights.

“Many just might visit because they did a good job in portraying us as a beautiful city, hence bringing us increased tourism and revenue for everyone,” she said.

The skycam captures the bucolic scene: A cool old farm truck with a hay bale in the bed, rolls through Petaluma’s green hills. An aproned shopkeeper sweeps his sidewalk in front of a vintage-style sign.

“Nestled away in Northern California, in the quaint town of Petaluma, you’ll find a locally owned restaurant where people come together for a great sandwich: fresh grilled egg whites, melted white cheddar, all on a toasted muffin,” the soothing voiceover coos.

He’s talking about the 250-calorie Egg White Delight sandwich from McDonald’s.

“Lovin’ is local,” the ad says.

Locals will recognize the downtown Petaluma clock tower, the Mystic Theatre and the Kentucky Street storefronts.

Never mind that Petaluma’s two locally owned McDonald’s franchises are nowhere near downtown, nor situated on walkable tree-lined streets. (They’re both in large shopping centers on the city’s east side.)

The 30-second ad, airing in both English and Spanish, has created quite the buzz around the county’s second-largest city, which prides itself on quality, homegrown cuisine.

“Well, now that is lovely,” snarked Jon Bixler on the Positively Petaluma Web page. “Let’s see if we can’t promote some of the local businesses. You know, the ones that hire local, purchase local, deposit their dollars local and participate in their local community. Is this really who we want to be associated with?”

But others raved about the good pub for P-Town.

“I love it, too!” Michael Von Der Porten posted on The Press Democrat’s Facebook page. “Eighteen seconds of promotion of Petaluma and good food — country scenery, quaint streets, local shop owner sweeping. Only then does McDonald’s logo appear.

“Petaluma and Sonoma County couldn’t afford any national advertising that will have this reach. Sonoma County tourism should benefit from this! How about, ‘Egg White Delight? Yes, and so, so much more in Sonoma County!’ ”

The ad comes at a time of sweeping changes for the world’s largest restaurant chain, which has more than 36,000 outlets, about 14,000 of them in the United States. A new CEO took the reins of the 60-year-old company last week as same-store sales have fallen over the past five years and many consumers seek healthier, more socially responsible options.

Also last week, the company announced it plans to require chicken suppliers to stop using antibiotics important to human medicine within two years and it will no longer serve milk from cows treated with a specific artificial growth hormone.

The company has long battled negative perceptions about its potentially unhealthy food, but that has become a bigger vulnerability as more people shift toward options they believe are made with higher quality ingredients or are more socially or environmentally friendly.

Enter Petaluma — a town of 60,000 that is no longer small but still strives to be in many ways. A town that values its rich agricultural history but also wants to tap its high-tech and gourmet aspects. A town that promotes walkability but one that takes 20 minutes to traverse, on a good day.

Maybe Petaluma should adopt the Roman god Janus for its mascot. Janus is depicted as having two faces, looking to the past and the future.

That’s about where the debate — passionate, heated, sometimes rude and mean, often facts-be-damned — about the McDonald’s commercial has landed in the land of butter and eggs.

Santa Rosa resident Anne Convery said she saw the spot and couldn’t help but be surprised to see it was set in Petaluma.

“I kind of feel like Petalumans would characterize Santa Rosans as more the McDonald’s type, so I guess I was a little tickled, in a playfully mean and schadenfreude kind of way,” she joked.

But seriously, she said, most of her favorite locally owned “and awesome” restaurants are in Petaluma — Wishbone, The Tea Room, Central Market, Water Street Bistro, Mi Pueblo.

“I can’t think of anything that characterizes Petaluma LESS than McDonald’s,” she said.

It’s about as earnest as when Applebee’s “scrounges up a picture of the local fire department, circa 1910, blows it up to poster size and tries to brand itself as a neighborhood place,” she said.

Local radio personality Brent Farris of KZST posted a link to the commercial and was astounded at the vitriol.

“I was stopped everywhere and told how McDonald’s does not represent Petaluma, they should take it off the air, I should be ashamed for telling people about it, etc., etc., etc.,” he wrote in an “open letter to the whiners in Wine Country.”

Get over yourselves, he said.

“It shows the beauty of Sonoma County to the world,” he said. “It makes me proud to live in a place so incredibly gorgeous that a huge company like McDonald’s, with stores in the greatest cities in the world — Paris, Rome, London, Prague — would want to film here. … They chose Sonoma County to highlight a product that is healthier and more flavorful than what we believe they are capable of selling.”

While he said he can’t remember the last time he ate under the Golden Arches, the ad put him in a mind to try the Egg White Delight.

Much of the online venom has been directed at Petaluma’s leaders, saying the town “sold out” to corporate interest or suggesting the town was paid big bucks for the production. It wasn’t.

Petaluma and Sonoma County are popular filming locations, because of the natural landscape, well-preserved period buildings and an “everyman” look that can double for a Midwest street or Italian countryside.

Marie McCusker, executive director of the Petaluma Downtown Association and Visitor’s Program, has taken no small bit of grilling for defending the ad and Mickey D’s portrayal of Petaluma. Her agency helps film production crews through the city permitting process and regulations that require filming doesn’t unnecessarily disrupt other businesses.

“McDonald’s does not represent Petaluma as a community, but they are part of it,” she said. Both McDonald’s in town are owned by local residents.

“I am certain that whilst we aim to keep everyone happy, it’s not possible, and yes I do agree that our brand here in Petaluma is one of local first and wholesome hometown authenticity,” she said. “The reality is that we do have corporate here — many owned by local franchisees.”

She said she doesn’t think the ad will prompt tourists to flock to Petaluma to gobble up Egg White Delights.

“Many just might visit because they did a good job in portraying us as a beautiful city, hence bringing us increased tourism and revenue for everyone,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori Carter at lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com or 521-5470.

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