It has almost everything you'd expect from a big brand nowadays:

  • A Hollywood star (Mindy Kaling).
  • An endorsement of another major brand, which is well connected with the fast-food chain (Coca-Cola).
  • An appeal to users of modern technology (who are encouraged to "Google" a question).

Actually, there's only one thing you'd expect to see that's missing:

There's absolutely no mention of the name McDonald's.

As reported by The New York Times:

The ads are part of the chain's first unbranded marketing campaign, in which it is coyly asking people to search Google for "that place where Coke tastes so good." The query, meant to capitalize on millions of search engine results that favor the fast-food chain, is central to the ads where association with the brand is limited to placing Ms. Kaling in a bright yellow dress against a red backdrop.

The ads started running last week and play on how teens and twentysomethings use their phones while watching TV, while also acknowledging "how they're discovering information" they trust, said Deborah Wahl, chief marketing officer of McDonald's for the United States. "They are very influenced by word of mouth and what their peers say," she said.

Here's the first ad, entitled "Search It," which was posted to YouTube a week ago. Not on McDonald's official page, mind you, but rather on a page with the theme, "That place where Coke tastes SO good."

So, what makes this ad so brilliant?

It's not just its uniqueness, which has got everyone talking, and some major (free) media coverage, resulting in over 3.5 million views (so far).

It's not just McDonald's capitalizing on the years-long online conversation about who has great-tasting Coke, which has placed the Golden Arches at the top of search results for this particular topic. (And after this campaign, you can be sure it's going to stay there for a very, very long time.)

It's not just an opportunity to get loads of new customers--including Coke fans, who may not even like McDonald's food, but start coming in just to see if their favorite beverage really does taste better there.

And it's not just the fact that the ad is interactive, turning you from passive observer to participant, which, if you follow through, will create an indelible, emotional connection in your mind between Google, McDonald's. and Coca-Cola.

It's not just one of those things. It's all of them.

Well played, McDonald's. Well played.