How McDonald's Creates Content With 'Inherent Social Value'

Behind the Chain's Global Digital and Social Marketing

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Using social media as an individual or a small brand is one thing. But being McDonalds' in social is something else entirely.

Sosti Ropaitis
Sosti Ropaitis

The golden arches operates in 118 countries, all of which manage their own marketing calendars, including digital and social media. The chain's challenge lies in having a cohesive message across the globe, while remaining nimble enough to be able to produce localized and timely digital and social media campaign. In Facebook terms: it's complicated.

McDonald's Global Director of Digital and Social Media Sosti Ropaitis oversees the chain's global digital and social media efforts, and will take the stage at Ad Age's Digital Conference in San Francisco on Oct. 15 to talk about the risks, challenges and opportunities with real-time digital marketing. He gave us a preview in this lightly edited conversation:

Ad Age: How does your philosophy of "storytelling with inherent social value" work as an effective marketing campaign?

Mr. Ropaitis: We see a lot of value in true engagement, and if you were to attribute a formula or a way to define engagement, it's a function of content, context and timeliness. There's multiple variables there for a brand, and multiple opportunities to get it right and really connect with audiences. Obviously, context and timeliness are the two major variables. Content is something everybody's putting effort behind, but the timeliness, especially, is the most difficult part for a brand to get right, because we all know it's not easy to be timely if you're a large corporation. So we put a lot of value into real-time content...and we want to be true to our audience, so we want to create...campaigns that are unique, that connect with audiences and are transparent enough. It's not about a large multi-variable campaign, it's about smaller grassroots efforts that really connect with the users they're directed to.

Ad Age: When you're talking about smaller, grassroots efforts, you'd have to execute that at a local level, wouldn't you? You're role is global, so how do you do that?

Learn more about real-time marketing at Ad Age's Digital Conference, Oct. 15 in San Francisco. More info.

Mr. Ropaitis: It's [about local], and it isn't. We are a global, decentralized brand, and rightfully so….We want our local [marketing] people making the decision for their markets. But for our larger activations, like for sports sponsorships and anything around the Olympics and World Cup, we see what's happening during that event [and execute] localized-type campaigns [around the globe]…So [we look at] what's happening during World Cup, and trying give that feel and vibe [at a local level], and also attach that to the fun, to the nostalgia of the brand -- all the elements that we stand for as a brand, so that it actually connects with our audiences.

Ad Age: How do brands fall short when trying to engage consumers in social?

Mr. Ropaitis: We want to be very aware of what's happening with our brand around the world, and how consumers are interacting with our brand and how consumers are talking about our brand. So we use our monitoring identify content opportunities and just get a better grasp of how our online communities engage with our brand. You can run the risk of sounding very corporate, very rigid, not as human. Any time we have a little bit more of a human tone, or expose that fun nature of the brand, people connect with that. We are a brand that's been around for so long and we're a part of pop culture. The fact that we're a fun paying off because it connects with consumers…. Another risk is not being timely enough. Working for a large brand, there's a lot of processes and procedures that have to be followed to be able to go to market. If you don't do due diligence and plan accurately, you run the risk of going to market at a completely irrelevant time, and then your content doesn't really connect that much.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that McDonald's operates in 188 countries. The chain actually operates in 118 countries.

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