In an interview at the burger giant's worldwide convention last week in Orlando, Brad Ball, senior VP-marketing, McDonald's USA, said the chain is looking to step up spending on radio, outdoor and Internet marketing.
"We're not going to walk away from [TV]. I don't want that to be the headline," Mr. Ball said. "But I think we have the opportunity . . . to get in media that more closely approximate the message. The closer we can get to trigger a visit, the more successful we will be."
The "Did somebody say McDonald's?" theme, from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, allows flexibility for various marketing approaches, he said.
ADS TOUT WEB SITE
Starting in the next few weeks, all McDonald's ads will mention the chain's recently expanded Web site (www.mcdonalds.com), something other marketers already are doing.
McDonald's is also looking to use sports marketing initiatives to boost customer interaction. Plans include a simulated Nascar race car and a touring "Jam Van" where customers could shoot baskets in a joint promotion with the National Basketball Association.
In addition, McDonald's is looking at branding its drive-through operation with separate graphics that play off the Golden Arches.
McDonald's also plans to use ads to appeal to existing customers rather than fast-food aficionados who pick restaurants by price.
"We're going to focus more on loyal enthusiasts rather than try to chase everybody with this week's deal," said Mr. Ball, adding that a 5% increase in customer loyalty can lead to a 25% increase in sales.
DDB Needham is the agency for McDonald's adult U.S. business, while Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, handles the children's and teen marketing portions of the estimated $600 million account.
`MADE FOR YOU'
Center-stage at the conference -- which drew more than 15,000 franchisees and suppliers -- was the chain's new "Made for You" cooking system, designed to improve food taste and quality as well as customer service at a time when U.S. sales have been soft.
Jack Greenberg, chairman of McDonald's USA, told franchisees the company will pay up to $12,500 for each cooking system, which will cost an estimated $25,000.
New products were much in evidence at the event, including bottled water bearing the McDonald's logo, which may be rolled out with Happy Meals; packaged cookies with the McDonald's logo; and new-recipe shakes.
The company is rolling out McFlurry, an ice cream treat with branded candy mix-ins -- and a rival to International Dairy Queen's Blizzard treat.
"The Blizzard is an excellent product. We think there's market share to be had for McDonald's," Mr. Ball said.
Dairy Queen kicked off a new five-week campaign last week in 100 spot TV markets themed "Blizzard '98." Gary See, VP-marketing for Dairy Queen, said the ads, from Grey Advertising, New York, were not timed to coincide with the McDonald's convention.
While there are no immediate plans, more Mexican-food items targeted to dinner may appear at McDonald's, thanks to its acquisition of a minority stake last month in Chipotle Mexican Grill, a chain of 14 fast-food restaurants with fresh Mexican food targeted to adults.
`DID SOMEBODY SAY?'
"Did somebody say McDonald's?" got positive reviews from several franchisees at the convention, who said it is starting to gain momentum.
"I hear more and more about it," said Denver franchisee Bob Charles. "This could be a lot closer to `You deserve a break today' than anything else."