The new effort breaks on Feb. 21 and will be a yearlong push. It will run in 30 to 40 spot markets, including Boston, Minneapolis, New York and Washington.
Arnold handles almost one-third of McDonald's regional business, for 21 co-ops and more than 3,000 restaurants. That represents more than $100 million in billings; breakfast spending wasn't disclosed.
Although using a regional shop for a major branding effort is unusual, McDonald's has done so in the past. It used the widely hailed "Mac Tonight" campaign from Davis, Ball & Colombatto, Los Angeles, in the mid-1980s as a branding effort for dinner.
The new move comes as No. 1 McDonald's faces increased competition for the morning meal not only from No. 2 Burger King Corp. but also from coffee-house chains and convenience stores. Even traditional niche players like Dunkin' Donuts are presenting increased competition.
"Breakfast represents 20% of [McDonald's] business," said Tom Lawson, Arnold managing partner-chief operating officer. "But they weren't supporting it" with an image-type effort.
Among the reasons for that, he said, is the drive toward value-pricing, currently the focus of most national and regional campaigns (see story on Page 57).
"We have to make this a brand again instead of [just promoting] `two for $2' Egg McMuffins," said Mr. Lawson, who generally advocates branding restaurant and product attributes over relying on price.
Arnold's campaign breaks with three edgy spots, combining stream-of-consciousness thoughts and animations to show how a consumer can obsessively crave a McDonald's breakfast. The tagline is "Do what you gotta do." Those spots will run in conjunction with 15-second teasers, airing on late-night programs and carrying the tag "See you in the morning."
The new campaign comes after franchisees increased local spending in `96, pushing McDonald's into moving $150 million from national efforts into spot TV.
Contributing: Bill McDowell.