After decades of running differing instore promotions across its 13,700 US outlets, McDonalds has finally go its act together with a single coast-to-coast promotional approach.

The new-look strategy, aptly dubbed Simple Bold, is described in detail in a 40-page guide distributed to each and every McDonald's restaurant nationwide. It focuses on the appearance and siting of all promotional material, inside and out - on the windows, in the drive-through lanes and by the checkout counters.

The unification replaces the ragbag of logos, flashes and typestyles that have bedevilled past McDonald's instore promotions. Says McDonald's USA chief creative officer Marlena Peleo-Lazar: "I try to put myself in the customer's shoes. I don't feel like going in there and having my head spin."

But given that the brand owns only a minority of its outlets, the standardization of promotions is a bigger challenge than for most other national marketers. Some 85% of McDonald's stateside sites are controlled by independent franchisees who are not subject to head office promotional diktats.

To win the hearts and minds of these independents, the burger behemoth has set up an email help desk to help franchisees' fifty local ad agencies and design studios to toe the standard promo line.

The transformation is overseen by Publicis Groupe's Arc Worldwide marketing services network. At Arc's behest McDonald's has abandoned its former highly stylized photographs of food. Instead, the new look depicts the speedy chow just as it might appear on a customer's tray.

"Over-styling [the advertising of] food looks unnatural," opines Jim Carlton, an executive creative director at Arc. "Over time, consumers are going to be able to say, 'Those are real to me. Those are real onions. That is a real strawberry'."

Which opens a whole new philosophical can of lo-fat worms.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff