Four weeks ago, I blogged about the unflinching boldness of McDonald’s “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign.
If you want a nutshell summary, McDonald’s built a micro website and invited customers to post their questions about their food and policies. The wide-ranging questions vary in depth from the superficial to the deeply unsettling.
Rather than trying to bury the truth, the resulting written or video answers are about as direct as you can expect from a multinational corporation.
Last week, ads using the same colour-coded cue card scheme, which sorts questions by topic on the McDonald’s micro site, started appearing in the TTC.
I saw the same ads plastered on construction hoarding adjacent to the McDonald’s on Bloor Street in Toronto, opposite the ROM.
(My small people were restless, so I did not get a chance to snap a picture.)
The colourful art that works well as visual ground on the website has equal curb appeal.
More impressive to me, however, are the questions they selected.
In these two examples, the questions in the centre are relatively soft.
One is about the secret sauce in Big Macs. The other is the “Why does the food look different in the store than in your ads” question that I explored in my previous post.
But the questions in the outside squares address a plethora of problematic associations for the McDonald’s brand:
- Ingredients in their chicken and beef
- High sodium levels
- Lack of rot in their french fries (an indicator of their highly-processed contents to critics)
- Presence of animal fats in french fries, which became a riot issue in India in 2001
- The ethical treatment of animals
- The pink slime in hamburger meat issue raised by celebrity chief and real food advocate Jamie Oliver, which forced McDonald’s USA to revise its policy earlier this year (and, I suspect, explains this campaign). Postscript: I got into a LinkedIn discussion where one of the respondents claimed the pink slime is only an issue for the USA face of the chain, but my original point was that McDonald’s Canada chose to include a question on this topic, raised by a customer through an open forum, in their Canadian advertising (you can see it in the blue square in the bottom left corner). If it wasn’t an issue, why not exclude it here where they’re in control of what goes on the poster?
So what does this tactic get you? Again, it’s soft transparency.
McDonald’s isn’t showcasing their answers, some of which are still fairly disturbing.
But if I don’t bother to go and visit the website, the impression formed in my mind based on these ads is that McDonald’s is answering long-standing customer concerns about its products.
In that sense, it doesn’t matter what the answers are.
This ad campaign is a case study in demonstrating a well-articulated engagement process to combat problematic topics that threaten to have a deep and lasting impact on customer relations if left to fester.
The fact that the actual website underpinning the campaign makes a credible attempt to provide answers gives the whole project a solid leg to stand on.
You have to admire their guts.
I would have loved to have have been a fly on the wall in the pitch meeting.