How does McDonald's continue to stand the test of time

A constantly evolving TV strategy has delivered consistent uplift for McDonald's - and earned the brand one of our coveted Thinkbox TV Planning Award for 'Best ongoing use of TV' in 2018.

Back in 2007, McDonald’s was showing signs of decline in sales and brand metrics. As Kat Howcroft, senior media and budget manager at McDonald’s, admits, its strategy needed rethinking.

An ambitious target was set: to become the UK’s best loved restaurant brand.

The new comms strategy centred on addressing misconceptions about the brand and its food quality, driving more excitement and ultimately, reaffirming McDonald’s as value for money.

One of the biggest challenges, reveals Max Keane, Leo Burnett Group UK’s head of planning, is the sheer scale of the target audience. With three million people using McDonald’s every day, the creative had to appeal to a mass market.

TV was a huge part of driving the strategy – giving unrivaled reach but also allowing more emotive stories to be told. Stories which resonate across the nation. The strategy was recognised with a gong for "Best ongoing use of TV" at last year's Thinkbox TV Planning Awards, run in association with Campaign.

"McDonald’s is at its best when it’s holding a mirror up to real life," Keane says, as reflected in its campaigns over the past 10 years. Here are some highlights.

Forty years of memories

In 2015, McDonald’s celebrated its fortieth birthday and wanted to remind customers of the moments they had experienced with the brand over time. A series of TV spots depicting these moments, from accidentally hitting reverse in a drive-thru, to collecting a happy meal on moving-in day, made brand affinity metrics jump.

OMD’s XMP business director Rhian Feather says their placement added even more weight to the creative – showing the drive-thru spot during Top Gear, and the moving-in spot during Grand Designs.

Challenger brand

McDonald’s started to go up against even greater competition, with new fast food chains popping up and people becoming increasingly willing to spend even more for a great burger.

Surprisingly, McDonald’s became a coffee challenger brand, creating a campaign around "McCafe Moments". It targeted Gogglebox and worked with Channel 4 to ensure the creative specifically reflected what had just been shown on the popular programme. It drove brand recognition scores and sales - and saw the highest ever ROI across McCafe.

To address competition in the food market, McDonald’s created a campaign around ‘The Signature Collection’ – a slightly different audience and price point for the best burger. By parodying the world of high-end fashion, McDonald’s managed to maintain its signature style, while reflecting a more luxury quality and "a touch of class". It decided to go regional before national and, through adsmart, were able to measure a 167% leap in ad recall.

"McDonald’s has been on an incredible growth journey in the past ten years" says Keane.TV has helped reshape McDonald’s’ brand image and drive sales at a consistent rate, he points out.The brand has just entered its 50th consecutive quarter of growth in a declining market. And, crucially, the amount of weight behind their TV campaigns continues to place McDonald’s in minds and living rooms, helping the American-born brand become part of the fabric of the UK.

Entries now open for TV Planning Awards 2019

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