McDonald's Steps Up

Burger King may have won the headlines for its forays into adver-gaming. But its fast food rival hasn't been standing by idly. Here’s a look at what it's been up to

As companies attempt to reach an increasingly mercurial consumer base, advertisers are trying new and original ways to connect with the base. Those Geico cavemen that you've seen in various commercials might be getting their own sitcom. Burger King, along with myriad web ad campaigns like Subservient Chicken and Revenge of the Sith viral marketing tie-in Sith Sense, also made three Xbox titles that could be purchased with a Value Meal.

This begs the question, what is Burger King's leading competitor, the world's largest fast food chain, doing as a response to this? An example of McDonald's current approach can be seen in what the company has done with their Filet-o-Fish campaign. While much more low-key, this advertising campaign shows a composite approach across various mediums with more success than one might initially think.

We talked with Rob Boswell, Moroch's President and COO, and Jerome Elenez, McDonald's Southwest marketing director out of Dallas, about what it would take to have a man fight a dolphin over a fish sandwich.

The Reel

But first, some introductions are in order. Moroch is an independently owned agency that has done DMA activation and branding work for companies diverse as Midas, Uniden, Mrs. Baird's Bread, New Line Cinema and, of course, McDonald's.

"For Monster, we did one called Foot in a Door," commented Boswell. "You tried to get into the office and people would throw shoes with you. It was a sort of viral campaign, trying to tap into people's interest."

Before this campaign, Moroch was also involved with the McRibb marketing initiative, which incorporated both web and TV components. "We've done a similar campaign with McRibb," affirmed Elenez. "They had a great campaign in October through December. At the website, there was an opportunity to rock out to one of our rock ballads and have people mess with the lighting. We think there's something there, in these sorts of campaigns. When you went to McDonald's as a kid you hung out at a play place and this is a continuation of that sort of spirit."

In campaigns not related to a specific sandwich, but pertinent to McDonald's actions in the gaming space, Moroch also signed McDonald's as a primary sponsor of the Midnight Gaming Championship ( Taking place between Memorial Day and Labor Day, this tournament was a hit with gamers, and is looking to expand this year. "We did a Midnight Gaming Tournament in the area with EA Sports," commented Elenez. "That was something that was well received, so we understand that audience is looking for entertainment value."

The Hook

As for the Filet-o-Fish campaign in question, the online version's ( main website has two games: one a balancing act, and the other a variation on Pong. The TV ad that birthed this has a man in a dolphin tank jump out of the water to snatch a Filet-o-Fish away from another trainer. There's nothing too fancy about either aspect of the campaign, but they get the basic message across and probably have consumers considering the Filet-o-Fish more than they normally would. In the world of marketing, even a small idea planted like a seed can be considered a win.

"The Filet-o-Fish had no personality; it was something you trumped out at lent for people to buy," said Boswell. "We wanted to change that with last year's campaign; the sharkbait commercial had a shark come out of the audience after the sandwich. The corresponding website targeted casual gamers. We even kept the scores so die hard gamers could have bragging rights."

"We're trying to hit the sweet spot of 18—34," he continued. "At 3 o'clock, you probably take a break. A coffee break, or as it's known in the ads industry, a martini break. We just hope to create awareness about a sandwich consumers don't know too much about. We're also trying to not be too cool about it; just a goofy, fun little thing."

"McDonald's is known for good times and food," added Elenez. "This sort of campaign is a realization that society evolves and another way to connect with our brand in a personal way outside of the restaurant."

The Bait

Burger King has deftly used web campaigns to get the word out about sandwiches, products and just the brand in general. Some might think that McDonald's Filet-o-Fish web game campaign appears somewhat reactionary. However, Elenez denied any sort of inspiration from Burger King's efforts, "This is just something we wanted to do. Give our products that have something of a cult following something special."

Perhaps more interesting, however, is the potential of advergames like what Burger King did last year. The three titles were huge sellers and were considered a big success. When asked about the possibility of McDonald's doing the same, Elenez said the company was open to it.

"We're always exploring opportunities," stated Elenez. "We've been looking into that for years. We realize there's a market there above normal mediums. We want to find ways to reach our customers, so online gaming and console gaming are a definite possibility."

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