Tag Archives: McDonald’s

Battle of the 2016 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

To take your mind off whatever tsuris you may be feeling about our nation hurtling toward anarchy, for the third year in a row we take you briefly back to Sunday’s state of guacomole-induced stupor, to compare critics’ reviews of the all-important Super Bowl ads.

SuperBowlads2016

Like our politicians, once again it’s clear that the critics can’t agree on much (unless it involves dachshunds dressed up as hot dogs.)

And once again we realize that John Wanamaker was right: 50% of advertising is wasted. Unlike Mr. Wanamaker, in this case we have a pretty good feeling about which 50% may have been involved.

Crouch-Super-Bowl-Ads-2016

At the bottom of this post is a remarkable chart comparing major reviewers (color-coded green/yellow/pink) for all the spots run during Sunday’s game.  It’s pithy!
NOTE: ads are grouped by my rankings of green/yellow/pink but are alphabetically listed within those large groups.

A few observations:

First of all, if Super Bowl 50 was such an amazing success, why were there approximately 260 CBS ads taking up valuable ad space?

Humor seems to be back, and boy do we need it. (Celebrities are back, too)
– unfortunately, sophomoric humor was also in full schwing! (Amy Schumer, I’m talking to you)

kia-walken-superbowl-ad

Generally well-accepted spots had breakthrough, were straightforward, enjoyable, had product as hero – – and you came away knowing what the brand was
Audi’s Commander, Kraft/Heinz Wiener Stampede, Toyota Prius The Longest Chase, Doritos Ultrasound (I was not a fan), Avocados from Mexico Avocados in Space, Bud Light Bud Light Party, Hyundai Genesis First Date, Hyundai Elantra Ryanville, Amazon Echo Baldwin Bowl Party, Advil Distant Memory

Disliked spots featured unappetizing topics or visuals, human ailments, made no detectable point, or were just stupid
AstraZeneca Opioid-Induced Constipation Envy, Squarespace Real Talk, SoFi Great Loans, Great People, Valeant Jublia Best Kept Secret, LG OLEG TV Man from the Future

PinkIntestine

Mtn Dew Kickstart PuppyMonkeyBaby carried the torch of 2014’s Doberhuahua, quite happy to spew the ridiculous in the craven quest for online buzz
– (by the way, it’s Mtn, not Mountain)

TurboTax_SuperBowl50NeveraSelloutEMBARGOEDFebruary7840pmET16

Some highlights:
– Anthony Hopkins’s perfectly executed tongue-in-cheek “I’m not selling out” pitch for TurboTax
Jeep’s spots (finally) taking advantage of its amazing legacy
Kia’s spot called ‘Walken Closet’ starring Christopher Walken. (Did the pun drive the copy?)

Key Peele

Some lowlights:
LG’s infuriatingly pointless waste of Liam Neeson and Ridley Scott’s talents
Squarespace’s infuriatingly pointless waste of Key & Peele’s talents
– Spots that required you to know the context (T-Mobile/Drake, T-Mobile/Steve Harvey, Hyundai Elantra/Ryan Reynolds)

A few spots had obviously high production values but were virtually ignored by reviewers – which makes one wonder if their $5 million+ was well spent:
Intel Experience Amazing, McDonald’s Good Morning, Bai Horse Whisperer, Pokémon 2.0, Wix.com Kung Fu Panda, Advil Distant Memory, Mobile Strike Fight

Finally, Weather Tech – this is I believe your 3rd Super Bowl ad.  You make a great product in an admirable way.  You are decent, hardworking, earnest people.
But maybe it’s time to step away from the cheese dip and have a beer.

weathertech

Click once or twice on the table below to make it more readable.

SuperBowl2016

Footnotes:
My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approachAttention
–Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

Reviewers and links to reviews (if you were involved in any of the reviews and feel I got something wrong, let me know):
Kellogg Graduate School of Business – Northwestern University
Adweek
Ad Age
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
New Yorker
Slate
USA Today
Variety
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal
Yahoo Sports

See you next year!

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NEWS FLASH: Burger King Learns About Unintended Consequences

Last week Burger King ambushed McDonald’s with full-page ads in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, suggesting the two chains combine forces with a one-time mash-up burger (the McWhopper), ostensibly to further the cause of World Peace.  McDonald’s CEO adroitly demurred via Facebook, suggesting there may be better ways to save the world.  This was covered by The Armchair MBA recently.

TreeLimb

BK’s goal seemed to be to bootstrap its profile inexpensively by forcing McDonald’s to publicly engage with a smaller competitor.

DennysBurger1

Now Burger King is dealing with smaller competitors trying to do the same thing to it.  Both Denny’s and Wayback Burgers (a 100-unit CT-based chain that features the ‘3 x 3’ —  a 9-patty burger) have reached out to Burger King, suggesting they would be happy to take McDonald’s place.

Wayback3x3

Denny’s took out its own tongue-in-cheek full-page ad in the New York Times, saying in part: “Hey @BurgerKing, We love the idea of a peace burger.  We’re just not sure what to call this thing.  Any ideas?  @DennysDiner

We have never heard of Wayback, and never considered Denny’s for burgers, so this seems like a great opportunistic play on their parts, driving awareness via media momentum initiated by someone else.

As for Burger King, while it hoped to trick the prom queen into a date, it is instead being asked to take its little sister to the movies.

Burger King Resorts to Crown-Foolery

Burger King Resorts to Crown-Foolery

Your faithful servant has been busy so this report is a few days delayed, but still worthy of mention.

As you may have seen, Burger King recently ran full page ads in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, inviting McDonald’s to participate in the creation of a joint burger, the “McWhopper”, to be sold at one location for one day, with proceeds benefiting the organization ‘Peace One Day’ – on September 21 (Peace Day).

McWhopper Promo

The premise, according to the ad, is to “create something special – -something that gets the world talking about Peace Day”.

The old “Challenge the bigger guy and have him publicly acknowledge you” play has been used successfully in the past (Avis’s “We Try Harder” campaign, famously) – with benefits of generating free attention and leveling the playing field by being perceived as an equal.  Importantly, in the case of Avis, ‘Try Harder’ has everything to do with Avis’s point of differentiation.

Avis Try Harder

To anyone, including the most casual observer, this is not at all about world peace – – it’s just a clumsily transparent  attempt to lure a larger competitor into a PR trap. And in the end, with no apparent benefit for Burger King.  There is no link to Burger King’s point of advantage, and no apparent end game that links this activity to future profits.

One can imagine the discussion that precipitated this masterstroke campaign: “Hey – I read selected quotes from Sun Tzu ‘s ‘The Art of War” – – there’s one that says: ‘Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.’ How about we publicly challenge McDonald’s to work with us on the biggest possible initiative: World Peace! (giggle). If they engage, we win – – they treat us as equals. If they shut us down (giggle), they look like a mean-hearted big corporation – – we win! This can only have a great outcome!” (high fives, then go for beers).

Well, like the infamous South Park underpants gnomes, Burger King envisions the first step (PR stunt), the end result (beating McDonald’s), but forgets the important in-between part (how can we translate this stunt to actual marketplace advantage?)

Let’s examine a few things:

  • Burger King is owned by 3G Partners, famous for hacking personnel and drastically cutting budgets – waging an actual media battle with McDonald’s is probably not on the table, leaving PR stunts as one of the few available tools (not counting, of course, improving the actual food)
  • McDonald’s has roughly twice as many outlets as Burger King, so it does not benefit by engaging
  • The amount of money generated by a one-day/one-outlet stunt is vapor compared to the cost of the ads that were taken out to announce it

In the end, McDonald’s quietly announced (via Facebook) that it was not interested, suggesting “a simple phone call will do next time”.

In this case, Burger King has used a derivative notion (World Peace? Really?) totally unconnected to a corporate advantage that might be leveraged (how about getting back to ‘flame broiled’?), and while it has generated some free media coverage, it also exposes itself as a mere prankster.

McDonald’s neither engaged nor totally ignored, it gracefully demurred, suggesting the companies try something that might make a real difference (how about reducing obesity?).

In the end, Burger King faithfully executes Sun Tzu’s strategy, except they neglected to figure out that pesky ‘crush him’ part.  Next time, linking the stunt to something the company actually stands for might be a better move.

Perhaps they mistakenly followed a different Sun Tzu strategy: “The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.”

Battle of the 2015 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

It’s time to demonstrate (again) that when it comes to advertising, no one agrees on anything. Raise your hand if you’re shocked.

The Armchair MBA repeated last year’s stunt in comparing the ratings of 10 prominent 2015 Super Bowl ad reviewers, summarized in the handy chart below, along with my personal ratings. (Green/yellow/red coding, alphabetized within my ratings)

2015SuperBowlCollage

While no Doberhuahua this year, there was plenty of dreck and schmaltz to take its place, but a few very good spots as well. Unfortunately many spots were so-so – – either they rewarded our attention with a muddled message or weak branding, or they were copy-by-committee logical with no heart or pizzazz (Hello, GoDaddy. Hello, Weathertech).

Mostly universally admired: P&G Always “Like a Girl”, Avocados from Mexico, Dove Men+Care, Mophie, Budweiser/Puppy (I declined highest marks on the last two)

Most universally unloved: Nationwide’s “Boy” (runaway loser), Nissan, Lexus

Most schizophrenic (scored best on some lists, worst on others): McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin’”, SquareSpace/Jeff Bridges, Loctite “Positive Feelings”, Toyota Camry/Amy Purdy, Carnival Cruise Lines, Victoria’s Secret (had to watch this again to make sure I knew how I felt)

A few observations:
– Personally not a fan of high-concept feel-good spots like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or Jeep, or for that matter, the very cute/manipulative Bud puppy ads. Fun for the agency, probably test well for likability, but hard to see how see how it drives action or enhances the core brand equity.
Love spots like Fiat 500 SUV – simple message (we made the base 500 bigger), using an analogy that’s easy to understand and relevant to the main point (if a bit naughty)
– Would love to be a fly on the wall during the approval process of the Nationwide’s “Boy” spot (spoiler alert: it’s about a charming boy who turns out to be dead. More chips & dip, please).
– For fun, check out some of the breathless, we-take-ourselves-kind-of-seriously reviews comments like “Powerful message but tough ad to watch”, “Disturbingly brilliant and impactful”, “emotionally powerful and good storytelling”, blah blah blah – you can see some here (as well as a CMO’s explanation about why his ad was NOT supposed to sell product.  Hmmm…).

To see the summary, click on the chart below. Click twice for maximum size/readability.

SuperBowl2015

The reviewers:
Kellogg Graduate School of Management

Advertising Age

Wall Street Journal
Chicago Tribune


Entertainment Weekly

Variety

Slate

Yahoo Sports

New Yorker
New York Post (new this year!)

My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approach: Attention
– Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

We know that the Super Bowl is a special stage, and different rules certainly apply.   In addition, there are social media linkages and previews that can dramatically amplify the impact of ads. So it is somewhat unfair to judge an execution in isolation.

On the other hand, we don’t claim to be fair. And as observed last year, sometimes an ad just sucks.

See you next year.

McDonald’s – Kinda Lovin’ La Vida Local

A new ad from McDonald’s focuses on an underleveraged asset – – local stores’ place in their communities – – reflecting a potentially effective component of its plan going forward. McD Signs McDonald’s faces huge headwinds in the form of stalled sales and softness* among younger consumers who seem to favor more contemporary fast feeders like Chipotle that deliver things McDonald’s isn’t good at: local sourcing, transparency, nutrition, etc. (in addition to more tasty food).

Ask any 2 people about what McD’s should do and you’re likely to get 3 or 4 opinions: reinvent the menu to appeal to younger consumers, make everything natural, offer more customization, trim the menu to the core items, invent a sub-brand, etc.

As part of its battle plan, new CMO Deborah Wahl recently announced a broad refresh of the ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ campaign, including among other things an ad that shows its familiar marquees reflecting events in their local communities.

Marquee subjects range from the catastrophic (weather tragedies) to the personal (new babies). This is delivered alongside Love-centric advertising and unapologetic paeans to things like the venerable Big Mac, and efforts to increase transparency and show authenticity of ingredients (you can hear Ms. Wahl’s explanation of the transformation here).

The marquee ad (‘Signs’) was fairly controversial, with many panning it as being manipulative and even disingenuous because of McDonald’s visible role in the ongoing minimum wage debate (‘Fight for Fifteen’) and its appearance as a huge mega-billion dollar company that doesn’t care.

While the ’Signs’ spot is not perfect and is not a little mawkish, and certainly will not turn McDonald’s around, I think it is reflective of good strategic thinking.

Why? Because rather than trying to reinvent itself to reach a fickle audience (at the risk of alienating loyal customers), McDonald’s is identifying what its core strengths are and building its strategy around them.

McDonald’s role for decades has been reliably providing familiar (if not exciting) food at a good value in a clean environment. However, for many people McD’s has also been a reliable gathering place to meet, talk, and in many cases conduct business. Stop by a store on a weekday morning and you’ll get the picture. Working at McD Guys-in-McD For these people, McDonald’s isn’t a soulless corporate behemoth that underpays, it’s a familiar nearby restaurant where you can always get $1 coffee, wi-fi, and time with your friends (or get stuff done) for a few hours. It’s local, it’s part of your routine and part of your life.

In this way, McDonald’s delivers a local connection that few of its competitors do. So they’re wisely making a point of it.

Sure, they also need to offer more transparency and things like Cuties for Happy Meals, AND continue to work on speed, service and cleanliness, AND some of the customers pictured above will not likely be patrons forever, AND they have a LONG way to go to reclaim relevance, but they cannot turn this oil tanker around overnight and positioning as local stores rather than a huge multinational seems to be a step in the right direction to stabilize things now.

On the other hand, I’m not so sure that forcibly selling a generic Love message is the answer. Last time that seemed to work was for Coca-Cola 40 years ago.  Actually, not sure it even worked – and in viewing it now, frankly, many of those fresh-faced singers look like aliens.

http://www.coca-colacompany.com/videos/coca-cola-commercial-id-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-in-perfect-harmony-bc3546193171001

*pun partially intended