At a meeting earlier this month of McDonald's executives and franchisees, Keith Reinhard, chairman-CEO of DDB Worldwide, the burger giant's lead agency, is said to have conceded that the theme line "Did somebody say McDonald's?" is not the best it can be.
According to an executive who attended the meeting, Mr. Reinhard said DDB is "starting the process" of changing the advertising, which could happen by yearend. Mr. Reinhard indicated the agency is "working on the next evolution because they have not optimized what it might be," the attendee said.
Another executive at the meeting said: "They may keep the line for a while, but the execution is going to change. It will be more like it used to be, more goosebumpy."
Late last week, Mr. Reinhard confirmed the effort will evolve, but insisted, "We have absolutely no plans to abandon the campaign or change the tagline."
A McDonald's spokesman declined to comment on specifics of the meeting, but said, "We're not anticipating any major changes at this time." He added: "It goes without saying we do evolve campaigns over time."
MONOPOLY, BEANIES RETURN
The McDonald's meeting is held periodically as a working session where marketing plans are laid out. For next year, many successful promotions will be revisited, including Monopoly, which will have a millennium twist. Teenie Beanie Babies will be back too in 2000, the first executive said.
This year's Happy Meal promotion with the collectible bean bag toys from Ty Inc. kicks off May 21.
Also, the world's largest restaurant chain remains committed to its sponsorship of the Olympics.
According to executives at the meeting, DDB didn't present new ad slogans but did present new creative executions.
There was no sense the agency is at risk of losing the account, by far the biggest in the restaurant business, said one of the attendees. He said the current new management team at McDonald's USA is reluctant to make marketing changes at a time of renewed good fortunes.
After high-profile marketing missteps such as the Arch Deluxe line in 1996, McDonald's has been enjoying strong sales. Global sales reached $36 billion last year, up 7.1% from 1997. A new U.S. marketing chief, Larry Zwain, was hired in January, but he isn't expected to make sweeping account changes.
McDonald's spent $570 million on media last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. DDB won back the business for general market ads in 1997 after it was housed at Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, for 15 years. Burnett retained the assignment for advertising to kids.
"Did somebody say . . ." was launched in October 1997 and was DDB's first major work for McDonald's since regaining lead status. It has since gotten lukewarm reviews.
"It's a nice umbrella," said one advertising executive for a shop that does work for a local McDonald's franchisee group in the South.
MISSING THE GREAT SLOGANS
Still, some McDonald's watchers have said they miss the great slogans of the past, such as "You deserve a break today." That tag, created by Mr. Reinhard, was launched in 1971 by what was then Needham, Harper & Steers.
At the McDonald's planning meeting, Burnett was a hit, the attendee said. When Burnett gave its presentation on stage, it brought up kids to help. The idea was to drive home the point that the target is children, not the middle-age executives at the meeting.
No major national product launches are planned until McDonald's completes the rollout of a new cooking system. Overall, new products are being treated with a much more disciplined, consumer focus. DDB already has created a spot for a test product, a salad in a cup, that shows promise. The spot shows people tossing the salad to their own beat.