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The first time I came across it was on Facebook, where a friend had shared a link headlined, "Some People Call This 'The Best World Cup Ad Ever'. After Watching It, I Might Have to Agree." The bad punctuation, length and general Upworthy vibe of the headline had my eyes rolling so hard I almost sprained them. That and the short-skirted woman on the sidewalk with a soccer ball perched on the toe of one of her high heels. I mean, really. And with no mention of a marketer in the headline or summary, I doubted if it was even a real ad.
So I moved on.
But the damn thing kept showing up. It was unavoidable. So finally I clicked. I discovered a video that ran almost two minutes and didn't include space aliens, this year's hottest professional-soccer stars, movie tie-ins, the Incredible Hulk or someone screaming "GOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLL!" No, what I found were some extremely talented kids and adults doing impossible tricks with soccer balls. There's a young boy celebrating his escalator-banks shots with a goofy dance. There's a young man kicking the ball high and hard enough to ring the bell of the local church. There's an old man in Rio showing off his moves -- and a pretty toothless smile -- to the kids on the beachfront. And, yes, there's a young woman in tight skirt and high heels wowing a crowd with some pretty amazing footwork.
All of this, combined with a soundtrack that is 100% Kanye-free, makes for a commercial that is fun.
Remember fun? And smiles? And ads that don't have the CGI budget of Michael Bay's latest summer movie?
Granted, there may be some kind of digital trickery to some of these feats -- it's 2014, so it'd be naïve not to at least suspect it -- but so what, who cares? It's a hit with the media, a hit with soccer fans, a hit with people on Facebook, some of whom might not even know what the World Cup is.
And it's for McDonald's, which not so coincidentally was named Marketer of the Year at Cannes.
More specifically, the ad is for McDonald's augmented-reality "Gol!" game released as part of its official World Cup sponsorship. The app-based game involves making trick shots with a soccer ball and is played with a carton of McDonald's fries. There are 12 World Cup-themed french-fry cartons, each representing a different artist's passion for the world's biggest soccer tournament.
All of which sounds fairly complicated. But put simply, McDonald's used a viral video to market an addicting mobile game that requires the actual purchase of an order of fries.