LOS ANGELES – McDonald's Corp. (MCD), which has been trying to change the image of its counter jobs as low-paying and dead end, Wednesday unveiled a new television ad featuring Olympian Carl Lewis (search) and others whose first jobs were at the Golden Arches.
The commercial, which hits the U.S. airwaves Wednesday night, is part of McDonald's aggressive effort to reverse the stereotype of the so-called "McJob" as lacking in opportunities for advancement.
McDonald's is following the lead of other U.S. companies, most notably Wal-Mart Stores Inc., that have used employees in TV ads in an effort to counter claims theificient benefits.
R&B musician Macy Gray (search) also appears in the ad, in which she calls working at McDonald's her "first big break." A British firefighter, a Canadian photographer, a German opera director and a Florida-based McDonald's franchisee are also featured.
Lewis, who worked at McDonald's when he was 16 and went on to win 10 Olympic medals in track and field, said working at the chain helped teach him discipline, teamwork and the importance of speed.
"Time is very important ... you couldn't let the fries get cold," Lewis said in an interview. "If I was 10 seconds off, I'd have no gold medal."
At the crux of the fast-food industry's image problems are the long hours employees in restaurant chains often work and an average staff turnover rate of roughly 130 percent, according to data from research firm People Report.
McDonald's has sought to address the challenge of retaining talented employees with improved health benefits, computer- based training opportunities and an enhanced 401k program for hourly workers.
Thanks to such initiatives, the chain has reduced its turnover rate to around 90 percent to 100 percent from about 130 percent. Now the Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain wants to get that message out to both its current 1.6 million employees, as well as those outside the company.
"It's a very compelling message and we wanted to make sure we got that out for our employees internally, as well as externally," Rich Floersch, the head of human resources, said in an interview. "It's all about pride for our employees."
McDonald's shares were down 65 cents, or 2 percent, at $31.97 on the New York Stock Exchange.