Some Philippine consumers this week may be surprised by a toll booth turned into a McDonald's drive-thru, which will treat them to a free toll and a free breakfast. Others in Ho Chi Min City may get customized Coke cans with McDonald's #ImLovinIt printed on the side. In Sydney, people will be encouraged to jump into a coffee-cup-shaped ball pit.
These elements are part of an ambitious McDonald's global marketing effort that will take place simultaneously in 24 cities in 24 different countries on March 24. The campaign, called "Moments of joy," is the latest iteration of the chain's brand refresh launched early this year. (Later, McDonald's said the campaign is actually called "I'm lovin' it 24.") The effort marks McDonald's biggest global push since "I'm lovin' it," said McDonald's Senior Director-Global Brand Development Matt Biespiel.
The move comes, said Mr. Biespiel, as the company seeks to connect with young people. To reach that audience, he said that McDonald's is working to evolve into more of a content producer rather than simply a large advertiser that buys massive amounts of traditional media.
Mr. Biespiel said the company knows it needs to reach people who are "moving across screens," in particular millennials. "We have to try different things. Some thing work out well, some don't. Part of our culture of continuous improvement, and with this we're trying new methods we've never tried before."
The "joy" effort will start in Sydney on March 24 local time (because of time zones, the effort will actually span a 36-hour period). The Sydney effort will be a "one-of-a-kind experience that interrupts the morning commute in Sydney by encouraging people to pause, forget about their routine and share in a moment of joy on their way to work as they play in a giant coffee cup ball pit," according to the company.
Activations in Manila, Ho Chi Min City and Auckland, New Zealand, will follow shortly after. Other countries that will be part of the campaign include Japan, Italy, China, France, Poland, Brazil, Romania, Argentina, the U.K. and the U.S. In the U.S., the company will put on a Ne-Yo concert; the R&B singer has been crowdsourcing lyrics for a new song via social media that he'll perform at the show. In London, pop star Jessie J will host a concert on a double-decker bus.
He said the global campaign is the inaugural effort being managed through McDonald's new global brand hub, a capability that will allow it to handle online chatter and manage 24 efforts simultaneously in one place. "The hub is the centerpiece of a reinvigoration of how we can connect and speak with our customers," said Mr. Biespiel, who called it part of McDonald's "strategic bet" on digital and the "first opportunity to connect disparate events around a common theme."
McDonald's strategic bet includes the hiring of McDonald's first digital officer, Atif Rafiq, joined the company in 2013. He's overseen a number of launches, including various tests of mobile ordering and payment, as well as McDonald's World Cup effort, which included an augmented reality game that interacted with McDonald's fry boxes. Mr. Rafiq also opened a small office in San Francisco last year to connect with the tech world. By the end of the year, Mr. Biespiel said that Mr. Rafiq's digital team will grow to 250 people.
The fast-feeder has been battling a protracted sales decline. To reverse the sales slump, the company is making aggressive changes, including trimming down the menu and speeding up operations. It's seeking to both connect with younger consumers in the U.S., and overseas. For 2014, global same-store sales decreased 1.0% and in the fourth quarter while U.S. same-store sales fell 1.7%. McDonald's hasn't had a positive sales quarter in the U.S. since third quarter 2013, when it posted a 0.7% increase.
As its new CEO Steve Easterbrook took the helm earlier this month, the chain posted disappointing same-store sales for the month of February, which declined 1.7% globally and 4.0% in the U.S.