The new burger is aimed squarely at adults, including the national advertising that will use kiddie icon Ronald McDonald in a parody-style campaign without a theme line.
According to executives familiar with the campaign, the commercial being readied for a May 1 launch is a different approach from McDonald's traditional tack.
ADS FROM FALLON
The new direction is being led by Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, new to the company's national agency roster. Thom Higgins of Dektor/Higgins, Los Angeles, is directing the TV commercial.
McDonald's has kept details of the product-a quarter-pound patty with bakery roll, cheese, tomato, lettuce, onions, ketchup, seasoned sauce and optional bacon-under wraps. It's believed to have been tested in Baton Rouge, La., and the product is being sold at McDonald's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill. The price is $2.19 with bacon and $1.99 without.
But analysts and restaurant industry observers said the fast-food giant is aiming to score bigger among adults, the largest consumers of fast-food.
"McDonald's owns the kids market, but the core, heavy fast-food user is late teen/early adult," said Prudential Securities analyst Janice Meyer. "It's about getting the heavy user to come [to McDonald's] more."
KID APPEAL GREATER
Robert Sandelman, president of restaurant tracking company Sandelman & Associates, said his studies show that consumers "give McDonald's high marks for overall kid appeal, convenient location and cleanliness, but they score low on taste and flavor and quality of ingredients."
Consumers "tell us they like McDonald's because it is convenient and their kids want to go. The adult purchase decision is driven by the kids," Mr. Sandelman said.
While the chain has a big share of adult breakfast traffic, he said adults don't choose the Golden Arches for lunch or dinner.
His belief is that the new strategy "is to try and get over that inertia," with a product "almost un-McDonald's in its approach."
Several industry-watchers said the company is taking aim at Wendy's International with Arch Deluxe, noting the competitor has one of the highest shares among adults.
"Wendy's has been humming along at 6% [sales growth] month after month after month," said an agency executive who handles a fast-food account.
WILL RONALD WORK?
But the question remains whether McDonald's is going a bit too far in taking liberties with its hallowed clown. Of course, that will depend on the creative execution.
"Ronald McDonald doesn't do much for kids or adults," said a fast-food insider. "It was a fabulous piece of equity but I'm not sure he's as relevant as he used to be."