The Salt

From Cartoon Chubster To Handsome Hipster: McDonald's Revamps Hamburglar


The Hamburglar is all grown up, slimmed down — and with a family.
McDonald's, AP
The Hamburglar is all grown up, slimmed down — and with a family.

We usually hate it when media speculate about whether a celebrity has had a nip or tuck, but it must be said: The Hamburglar has definitely had some work done.

McDonald's on Wednesday brought the burger-stealing character back for a new advertising campaign for the first time in over a decade — and he looks nothing like the short, chubby, red-haired cartoon that we here at The Salt grew up with.

Instead, he's now a tall, slim, stubble-faced dude sporting a fedora, trench coat and skinny-jeans. And it turns out he's also a suburban dad — a back story revealed in this advertisement for the McDonald's new Sirloin Third Pound Burger:

The unveiling of the handsome Hamburglar comes as McDonald's struggles to reinvent itself. The 75-year-old fast-food chain is facing slumping sales, as other options for a quick bite proliferate — from fast-casual fare like Chipotle, to so-called "better burger" chains like Shake Shack and Habit Burger.

This week, McDonalds CEO Steve Easterbrook unveiled a turnaround plan that involved rebranding the company as a "modern, progressive burger company."

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Presumably, the new "hipster Hamburglar," as USA Today dubbed him, is part of this effort. But so far, he's generating more scorn than buzz. Slate wondered whether old Mr. "Robble Robble" isn't having some sort of midlife crisis, while the ladies over at Jezebel let loose with more lascivious musings. Meanwhile, Time is worrying about his economic prospects: why he's in the burger-burgling business, since burgers are already pretty cheap, and lose their value (and edibility) fairly quickly.

Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability International, a watchdog group and longtime critic of McDonald's marketing to kids, says the updated Hamburglar is "definitely a response to the fact that being so obviously associated with cartoon marketing icons has become a liability for the corporation." But, he adds, "I think there's also an element of desperation here."

Desperation, or clever marketing ploy? After all, we're here talking about it.

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