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International: McDonald's pulls further away from mass marketing

19-June-2004
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International: McDonald's pulls further away from mass marketing

Declaring that mass marketing no longer works and that "no single ad tells the whole story," Larry Light, McDonald Corp.'s chief marketing officer, said McDonald's has adopted a new marketing technique that he dubbed "brand journalism."

Speaking at the AdWatch: Outlook 2004 conference at the New York Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Mr. Light described the concept as one marking "the end of brand positioning as we know it." He went on to say that effective marketing should use many stories rather than employing one message to reach everyone. In effect, he declared that McDonald's was abandoning the universal message concept.

Big idea

"Any single ad, commercial or promotion is not a summary of our strategy. It's not representative of the brand message," he said. "We don't need one big execution of a big idea. We need one big idea that can be used in a multidimensional, multilayered and multifaceted way."

He went on to define brand journalism, which he also referred to as a brand narrative or brand chronicle, as a way to record "what happens to a brand in the world," and create ad communications that, over time, can tell a whole story of a brand.

Mr. Light said the fast-food giant wants to deliver its "I'm Lovin' It" message in four cultural languages: sports, fashion, music and entertainment. To branch out, he said, the company is using many platforms and has shifted the advertising budget. Two-thirds of that budget was once dedicated to prime-time broadcast TV. Now, only one-third is, he said.

Ideas from everywhere

Though McDonald's has a bevy of advertising agencies, the bulk of its work comes from Omnicom Group and its agency DDB Worldwide, as well as Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Worldwide. The company, however, has said it wants ideas from everywhere and is not limiting that to roster ad shops or their U.S. operations.

He said that when a company executes a major shift in strategy, it should do so with a bang rather than a whisper -- and that is why the first "I'm Lovin' It" efforts used hip-hop music not usually associated with the worldwide chain.

"If [companies] are going to declare a new direction, close the door on the past and announce your future. Don't be subtle about it," said Mr. Light, who was the architect of the "I'm Lovin' It" idea and has overseen McDonald's improvement in fortune over the past year. Analysts are uncertain to ascribe the improvement to the advertising, store design, better menu driven by new salads, the rebounding economy or other factors.

$577 million ad spend

McDonald's spent $577 million in measured media last year, compared with $572 million in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Source: AdAge.com Online Edition

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