Ever since Mac and Dick McDonald opened the McDonalds Bar-B-Q in San Bernadino, California in 1940 – the branding we recognise today came later, in 1955 – the brand has been known for providing a fun and relaxed place to eat for all customers of all ages. With a particular emphasis on the very young, children have long enjoyed separate play areas, Happy Meals, and placemats that they can draw on and colour in.

McDonalds has recently been at forefront of innovation once again; however, it’s not a new menu, or a dramatic rebrand, it’s the humble placemat once again, although you won’t be colouring these ones in – these mats play music.

It’s a little more complex than just plug and play; the tray has paper printed with special conductive ink, and users will have to download an app to their smartphone to be able to use it, as their phone will need to act as both screen and speaker, but diners in one branch in The Netherlands recently found that they had their very own music mixing station in front of them to keep them entertain while enjoying their Big Mac and fries.

So how did such a complex piece of technology end up as a McDonalds placemat, and how does it work? The McTrax placemat is actually a very thin circuit board, and connects to your phone via Bluetooth technology. There are 26 digital touchpoints on the mat, including a small keyboard, and areas which will produce anything from rhythm to McDonalds’ own developed loops and effects. Diners can even add their own vocals to their compositions, and upload their finished creations to social media for their friends to enjoy too.

Dutch advertising agency TBWA/Neboko had the idea for this amazing piece of gadgetry, and their chief creative officer, Darre van Dijk, calls the musical placement a device which delivers ‘experience advertising’, and very much in keeping with the McDonalds ethos of providing customer engagement alongside food and drink sales.

The placemat has only appeared in one branch in The Netherlands thus far, and there’s no guarantee that it will go into mass production and appear in other McDonalds branches across the word. However, one thing is certain; this innovative entertainment device would certainly have encouraged the lucky customers that experienced it to agree with McDonalds famous slogan – I’m lovin’ it.

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