By Tyler smith
One night, I was sitting in front of my laptop as you do when there’s not much else to do, going down a rabbit hole of Youtube videos. It was mostly for background noise, I can’t remember exactly what I was doing, reading or scrolling on my phone, but whatever it was I hadn’t noticed that an ad popped up at the end of whatever video I was watching. Mind you, ads are usually a couple notches louder than the video, which was relatively quiet. You can imagine then, the mild jump scare I got when I looked up at my screen Namjoon of BTS telling me to buy chicken nuggets at 1 am.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, Bangtan Sonyeondan is a seven member musical boy group from South Korea who have been for the past few years making big waves in the music industry as a whole, breaking down barriers and receiving numerous accolades in the process. Their latest single, “Butter” has over 300,000,000 views on Youtube. BTS is the latest in a series of celebrity collaborations with McDonald’s in which celebrities have their favorite McDonald menu items turned into an orderable menu item for a limited time. The ad was surreal. The inside of the McDonalds was suddenly bathed in neon purple, pink and blue lights as seven well dressed guys try to sell you on a perfect platter of chicken nuggets and fries, and not a single fry is weirdly soft. So there I was, sleepy and staring vacantly at this neon colored ad for chicken nuggets at one in the morning. Was I, an adult, really going to be swayed by this corporate cash grab? Was I going to go to my local McDonalds, wait in line and spend my hard earned money on greasy fast food because Taehyung indirectly told me to?
I bought the BTS meal at McDonalds. It was much to the amusement/mild disappointment of my mom, who had to specify on my behalf that I wanted the limited edition sauce that came with it because she happened to be the one driving. It came in the usual brown paper McDonald’s bag, but this time it had “The BTS Meal” written in a really nice shade of purple on the front of the bag, and on the side in the same purple, the iconic BTS logo with the McDonald’s one. The food itself was just a regular old ten piece chicken McNugget, large fries and a coke, no special branding in the states, at least (although I will say, this was one of the better McDonald’s meals I’ve had, it’s usually a toss up depending on where you go). The only difference between this and a normal meal is the sauce that comes with it, and it is a great addition. It comes in these adorable light pink and purple packaging, and it’s sweet chili and cajun respectively. The names are written on the package in English and Korean and one has a red chili on it while the other has a little red flame. This is pure speculation on my end, but seeing as these flavors (as far as dipping sauces go) aren’t common in the US (we usually have ranch, honey mustard and BBQ sauce as the standard) I think they might have taken sauces from the Korean branch of McDonald’s, which I think is pretty cool if they did. The sauces packed a little more punch than your average McDonald’s food. It was more spicy than a spicy McChicken but nothing too crazy. It should be noted that I have a hilariously low tolerance for spicy foods, but once I collected myself the nuggets and sauces and the coke tasted really good.
All in all, I wouldn’t mind ordering it again. That being said, I think there is something delightfully absurd about celebrity McDonald’s meals. BTS, and kpop in general, is a marketing mega machine. A lot of the revenue they generate comes from merchandising- photocards, multiple versions of the same album, limited edition singles, light sticks and even collectible stuffed toy lines are all commonplace in kpop. So, it makes total sense that when BTS ran the American circuit they would do these types of things. And, they’re not alone. Travis Scott and J Balvin have had meals too, and they certainly won’t be the last. With a lot of their fanbase being young and having disposable income, I can’t help but wonder what they and other pop stars might start to brand next. Will we have BTS cereal? A Taylor Swift combo at Culver’s? Will celebrity branded foods be the next thing we buy to support our favorite artist? Only time will tell. And of course, you don’t have to buy anything just because one of your favorite celebrities told you to. But if you do, hoard the sauce packets.