McDonald’s amazing Big Mac campaign demonstrates the power of food photography without actually making the food look all that good.

Okay, first enjoy all these spots, which I got from Adweek’s Adfreak column:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PVTa3NEFv-I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=urOh-pvVV2M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=iLxJeQW-ibg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JQ8ksC4Qu7M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NP1MqFU9U4U

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tKTO9wgrRsU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Pi1wISpgadU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=a0SArq_CbBU

My favorite is “Mouth Madness.” What was yours…?

Now, think about the photography of the Big Macs you just saw. Sort of pale. Sort of flatly lit. Sort of drab.

Imagine convincing a restaurant CMO that it’ll be okay if the food is pale and drab and…oh, sort of retro and of-another-decade. 99 out of 99.5 CMOs are going to either run or slowly back away from agreeing to pale, drab, conceptually bizarre, humorously old-fashioned-looking food photography.

“Have as much fun as you want with the concept, but I need the food to look mouth-watering,” is a sentence a restaurant CMO has undoubtably said to his or her agency this week, and will again next week. “Delicious and piping hot!” they added, or will add.

So I’d like to congratulate McDonald’s CMO Steve Easterbrook—or whichever brand manager at the behemoth corporation got behind this campaign—and the ad agency Translation. What a partnership. Here it is: My Congratulations, Everybody.

Because by putting the Big Mac squarely, obviously, photographically, visually, contextually into the 1970s when it was famously introduced (and the 1980s when they managed to sell billions to baby boomers and Gen-Xers), they own not just heritage and brand leadership and category bustingness: they own every memory I ever had of enjoying a Big Mac.

And for the Millennials who may not share my nostalgia, these ads are just f-in’ cool. (“Cool” is still hip, by the way.)

See, food photography is about way more than getting the light just so, and having the food twirl sumptuously, and if at all possible getting in close on a ribbon of chocolate flowing into a swirling pool of other chocolate. It’s about more than the glycerin on the tomato slices and the wetness of the lettuce.

It’s about evoking taste.

Luring me into wishing I could have One of Those, whatever “those” may be.

That’s all. Make me think of having that food—in the context of my beliefs about and affection (if any) for your brand.

That retro type face has as much to do with the taste appeal of those Big Macs as the literal depiction of the famous two all-beef etceteras. These ads remind me that I’m fond of the Big Mac.

I’m not all that crazy about the “Think with your mouth” copy line, actually; it’s fine, it’s whatever, it’s suitable, it’s serviceable, it’s just-okay. But overall this campaign is so deftly evocative of the idea of a Big Mac it’s amazing it even exists.