McDonald's amplifies 'tweenager' courtship

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McDonald's Corp. is stepping up its efforts to be cool with the pre-teen and teen set with a dedicated promotional Web site and targeted music promotion.

The McGoliath began teasing "tweenagers" about its "Summer Music Event" the week of July 17 using its HugeM portal to promise that "the music is coming," rather than sending Gen Y customers to its main site. The promotion includes CD and video premiums with purchases featuring Britney Spears, 'N Sync, Sisqo and Enrique Iglesias among others.

"To expect [tweenagers] to go to McDonalds.com is unrealistic," said Mark Burgess, VP-account director, Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. Tweens expect companies to have an online presence; so the agency decided to create a site tailored to their interests, he added.

Tweenagers "are really media savvy and the HugeM site taps their innate desire to find things out."

McDonald's is one of a growing number of companies steering customer groups to relevant subsites rather than pushing them through the corporate home page. Hewlett-Packard Co., for example, will do so using technology of RealNames Corp.

Burger King has also been evaluating ways of using the Internet. Its focus, however, is more on selling burgers than building a brand image.

McDonald's has used the Internet to reach the young audience since 1996 through McDonalds.com, but launched HugeM in February a "Monopoly" promotion, then used it for its "Dinosaur" movie tie-in. The two Web promotions drew 20 million impressions, said Mr. Burgess.

The site was handled by BCom3's Burnett, media-buying arm Starcom IP and Burnett affiliate Capps Digital, all Chicago.

YOUTHFUL PARTNERS

The site has lined up youth-oriented partner sites, including

Alloy.com, Bolt, MXGonline.com, Nickelodeon Online, NSync.com and Radio Disney. It also links to relevant content on the partners' sites. "We have to fish where the fish are and pull them in with interactive, meaningful content; create reasons for them to stay; and circulate traffic," said Mr. Burgess.

Another part of the site features games and entertainment created by the partners, including music clips, as well as snippets from McDonald's commercials featuring 'N Sync and Ms. Spears, who headline the chain's summer music promotion.

"When we talk about this age group, there's a certain amount of discovery that's important here. They like to stumble upon new things, cool things," said Michael Wood, VP, Teenage Research Unlimited. In a syndicated study last fall, the researcher learned that word of mouth is the No. 1 source of teen information.

"There is a kind of status in coming across a cool Web site and telling their friends about it," Mr. Wood said.

CYCLICAL MODEL

The site follows a cyclical branding model. Between promotions, the site shows a static page with messages to encourage users to visit again. When live, the site becomes a sophisticated retail-driving device, Mr. Burgess said. While the model and navigation patterns are the same from promotion to promotion, every campaign is unique, he added.

"You'll never see the same game twice."

Burnett created online and offline teases to build anticipation for the summer music promotion, which runs Aug. 4 through Aug. 24. Online teases on the site run through the promotion launch and TV spots, airing on network and cable programs, break July 28.

The Internet tease uses behind-the-scenes footage from the musicians filming the commercials to build talk value, said Lisa Bennett, exec VP-executive creative director, Burnett.

"We are giving information about what's coming, but we're trying to do it in a way that's clever enough where kids will want to search out their own information," she said.

Other components of the advertising campaign include print, radio, in-store signdage and promotions. Multicultural campaigns are being created by Burrell Communications Group, Chicago, and del Rivero, Messianu, Coral Gables, Fla.

Copyright July 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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