Arts

TV Critic’s Corner

In new ad, it’s unclear what Mindy Kaling is selling. And it just might work

Mindy Kaling in the ad.
McDonald’s
Mindy Kaling in the ad.

I wish I could hear Don Draper pitch this particular ad campaign, which never mentions or shows the name of the product being promoted. Indeed, the ads only reference the name of a different product — Coca-Cola. I can just hear Don waxing poetic about invisible visibility, or unbranded branding, or something opaque but cool.

The new campaign features Mindy Kaling, who, dressed in a yellow dress against a red background (HINT), encourages viewers to Google the phrase “that place where Coke tastes so good.” Once they’ve done so, Kaling says, they will discover which food chain is behind the ads.

According to The New York Times, the approach is designed to reach people in their teens and 20s who get much of the information they trust by word of mouth, and not by corporate messaging. It’s also a way of capitalizing on the fact that young adults frequently use a second screen while the TV is on.

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Is it annoying. Oh yes, it is. Kaling makes a big deal about not being allowed to say the name of the product where Coke supposedly tastes so good. In one of the spots, Kaling and a “Beverage Technician” mention the name of the chain repeatedly, and it is bleeped out each time. In a tweet, Kaling wrote, “When [REDACTED] partners up with you to sport a yellow dress and drink Coke, you do it. Thanks [REDACTED]!” It’s too precious by a mile.

Is it effective? I’m betting it is. Watching the ads, I didn’t hear the brand name once, nor did I see the brand logo, and yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Despite all the faux secrecy and evasions, those golden arches just kept parading through my mind.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.