Fast food meets the Internet

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As McDonald's Corp. continues to tweak its Made For You kitchens, the chain is building another customization program--this time for its 200 local and international communication agencies.

The burger giant is developing a massive electronic infrastructure to manage and facilitate creating local ads and marketing collateral for its international and domestic co-ops. The systems allow co-ops to make locally relevant creative, while maintaining corporate-driven quality controls.

Say, for example, an agency in Melbourne wants to do a Quarter Pounder commercial. Rather than shoot original footage, the agency requests pre-approved existing footage, which is charged to the agency's account. This way, McDonald's keeps food footage consistent worldwide and reduces costs for repeated use of the same types of scenes.

The latest addition to this framework is a digital commercial archive at mcdcommercials. com. The electronic library will hold some 15,000 McDonald's commercials from the chain's advertising since 1967 for use by local co-ops and agencies.

Commercial libraries are fairly common among agencies, but rarer for corporations and practically unheard of in digital form or on such a massive scale.

BURNETT LIBRARY

In 1987 Leo Burnett created the Great Commercials Library, which contains 7,000 commercials and storyboards for the best worldwide work in all categories since the 1960s. An online companion has photo pages from the past two years.

Over the decades, Ford Motor Co.'s ad agencies kept archives of ads. But a spokeswoman for the car marketer's corporate marketing department said all past and future ads will be centralized at Ford in roughly a month's time.

Chicago interactive agency Optimus developed the McDonald's site, which will go live July 10 with about 500 spots from the past two years, said Dan Brown, manager-interactive media for Optimus. To load the complete digital archive will take up to three years. "It's a dream project," said Mr. Brown. "I've never heard of such a comprehensive archive."

Each spot will provide detailed information including 35 searchable fields that include the creative agency, product, market status, ad category, campaign taglines and production costs. The main page features a simple search prompt to scan the archives by country, broadcast year, agency or keywords. A more comprehensive search offers all 35 fields.

Curious outsiders can forget trying to access the pages; the site is password-protected and restricted to users qualified by McDonald's.

RICH HISTORY

The brainchild of Sue Cox, staff director-marketing communications, who leads McDonald's creative services team, the site is meant to serve practical as well as preservation needs.

With creative executives retiring or leaving the company, plus agency staff turnover, its rich history is at risk of being lost. "People have been at McDonald's for 30 years, but they won't be around forever," said Mr. Brown.

Ms. Cox's team gets calls for work done in the 1980s and earlier. "It would take weeks to pull an example of that creative," she said. The fact that McDonald's has produced between 30,000 and 50,000 commercials on a global basis was another key driver, she added.

The best work over the years is being compiled by the chain's 200 worldwide agencies and verified by McDonald's staffers. Ms. Cox estimated that about 75 local agencies and 125 international agencies are participating in the process. One part-time coordinator at McDonald's helps manage the site.

Powered by Apple Computer's Quicktime 4, a real-time streaming media tool with 16-bit stereo audio, the site allows viewing spots almost in real time and downloading to a hard drive for import into other word processing applications or into presentations. The reels are not production quality and for reference purposes only. To protect current creative from hackers and avoid anyone from "jumping the gun to reuse creative," new work is added after it has been in circulation for at least six months, said Ms. Cox.

In other words, what won't be on the archive, for example, are elements of the new "smile" campaign, which is said to comprise more than 80 versions of eight core executions, according to executives familiar with the campaign. DDB Worldwide is the lead agency on the program, with specialized ads from Leo Burnett and Burrell Communications Group, both Chicago, and del Rivero Messianu Advertising, Miami, agencies contributing kids, African-American and Hispanic versions.

SMILEY FACE FRENCH FRY

The new ads will focus on crew members, customers and food, with each ad emphasizing one of the three elements in slice-of-life scenarios. The ads will have blank "shells" for co-op agencies to add in local offers and tags. The new smile logo shows a Golden Arches above a french fry that curls up from end to end to make a smiley face.

Not to be overlooked, the chain's icon, Ronald McDonald, also will get an updated jumpsuit and a friendlier expression. Many new co-op campaigns are being held to allow for the national campaign launch, set for June 30.

For access to the new campaign, agencies can tap a pair of clearinghouse tools--the Product Footage Library (which stores current broadcast footage) and Brand Guard (which archives still graphic assets, such as logos, product shots, text custom ads, point-of-purchase displays and other print materials). Both systems are protected by passwords and other security measures.

The food commercial library has been around for about a decade, said Ms. Cox, and had been converted into CD-ROM format. She said this was fine as a reference, but when new footage was produced, people couldn't access it.

Last year, the company launched the digital library with the aid of Optimus. The site uses the shopping cart metaphor; agency staff can review and "purchase" scenes for use. As a result, agencies can localize national spots for continuity of message.

A MERE 90 SECONDS

The food library links to Brand Guard, which cuts a six-week to eight-week process to 90 seconds, said a spokeswoman. The system uses pre-approved templates that allow instant assembly of print-ready creative modules. Because all the pre-press variables are refined in the program, the system can optimize a pressrun, eliminating the need for press checks. Launched two years ago, Brand Guard already processes more than 2,500 creative requests per month. McDonald's is one of three companies currently using the system.

The projects have been a long time coming. "We'd been thinking about it for 10 years, but there hasn't been a system in place or technology where we needed it to make this doable," said Ms. Cox. "We had to figure out how you utilize and leverage technology to turn it into a resource or tool for everyone in the creative process."

Contributing: Jean Halliday.

Copyright June 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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