McD's taps Timberlake for 'I'm Lovin' It' tie-in

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Pop crooner Justin Timberlake will play a central role in McDonald's Corp.'s "I'm Lovin' It" campaign.

The chain could unveil its closely held plans as early as this week. Executives close to the fast-feeder said that Mr. Timberlake inked an extensive $5 million to $6 million pact to serve as a front man for McDonald's.

"He fits the McDonald's profile," said an executive close to the marketer, who confirmed the pact. The deal could include original songs penned by the singer that incorporate the chain's tagline.

Omnicom Group's Arnell Group is believed to have brokered the deal. Neither the agency nor McDonald's would comment.

No mention was made of Mr. Timberlake at a press event last week when company executives told reporters the campaign would begin Sept. 2 in Germany with a rolling launch. The U.S. will be one of the last markets to see the effort when it breaks Sept. 29.

"Surprise is a key part of this campaign," McDonald's Senior VP-Global Brand Business Dean Barrett said at the event. "The idea is to take the phrase `I'm lovin' it' to new heights." President-Chief Operating Officer Charlie Bell denied knowledge of a deal with the ex-N'SYNC band member, but characterized the new campaign as "in synch with pop culture."

massive push

The massive branding push is designed to make McDonald's more "hip, contemporary and today," said Mr. Barrett. DDB Worldwide's Heye & Partners, Unterhaching, Germany, handles the ad campaign. McDonald's other roster shops-which in addition to DDB include Omnicom's TBWA Worldwide and Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Co.-are also involved in the effort.

McDonald's hired director James Brown to helm the campaign (see related story, P. 25). German music production house Mona Davis Music, also based in Unterhaching, will handle sound and music. According to the company, commercials using "real people" are set to begin filming.

To give a sense of what's to come, McDonald's executives pointed to hip-hop-inspired spots now on the air that update the famed "two-all-beef-patties" jingle to promote the Big Mac. Omnicom's del Rivero Messianu handled that effort.

polarizing

Mr. Timberlake's participation could be polarizing. At a concert in Toronto last week, Mr. Timberlake dodged water bottles and endured boos during his set from concert- goers more interested in rock bands the Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Rush. Even factions within the McDonald's system are split over the matter, according to insiders. Executives from McDonald's USA and DDB, Chicago, are said to have vigorously debated the hiring of the singer with McDonald's Global Chief Marketing Officer Larry Light.

Responding to a general question about internal quibbles over the global strategy, Mr. Bell acknowledged in last week's meeting that, "Some people may feel uncomfortable with the things we want to do."

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