MCDONALD'S SETS RETURN TO SUPER BOWL, OSCARS: FAST-FOOD GIANT HAD SHIFTED AWAY FROM SUCH EVENTS TO FOCUS ON LOCAL, DISNEY PROMOS

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The world's largest restaurant chain is headed back to the big leagues.

After a short hiatus from such premier advertising vehicles as the Super Bowl, McDonald's Corp. will stage a comeback next year. It's even eyeing the Academy Awards.

The burger giant plans to advertise on Super Bowl XXXIV next January and the broadcast of the Oscar ceremonies in March with new TV commercials from lead agency DDB Worldwide, Chicago.

The Academy Awards is arguably the second most important-and expensive-ad showcase after the Super Bowl. The Hollywood spectacle is typically second only to the big game as the most-watched TV event in the U.S.

CHANGING DIRECTION

The media buys, revealed in a memo obtained by Advertising Age, signal a shift in strategy for McDonald's. For the past few years, it has downplayed national brand-building advertising as it worked to recover from mid-'90s fumbles such as the Arch Deluxe sandwich line and a discount program called Campaign 55. The spotlight has been on local efforts and national promotions linked to the company's 10-year sponsorship pact with Walt Disney Co. (see story on Page 42).

McDonald's executives were unavailable for comment at press time.

However, an executive familiar with the plans confirmed the Super Bowl buy, and the memo discussed the rationale for using both the big game and the Oscars.

"Programs such as the Super Bowl or Academy Awards generate reach quickly and position brand advertising in highly valued programming environments," the memo said. Scheduling for the work is "designed to create a burst of two-week advertising" leading up to events.

NO SPENDING CHANGES EXPECTED

Ad spending isn't expected to change next year, and the company will continue to equally split its estimated $570 million budget between local and national efforts.

However, the way it spends for national TV targeted to adults is slated to change. McDonald's will use a more-segmented approach to its 18-to-44-year-old target group than in the past, and ads will fit into newly created categories clustered around five key reasons consumers go to the fast-food chain.

The reasons, dubbed "visit occasions," are: please the kids; adult fast-food choices; breakfast on the run; must be quick and easy; and impulsive treat.

BETTER TARGETING

The treat, for instance, is targeted to all adults but with a special emphasis on teens and women, according to the memo.

"We've got some research and facts that give us a better idea of how customers are using McDonald's," said an executive familiar with the media plans. "As a result, ads will be better targeted. We want to make sure we're really hitting the use occasion."

The Super Bowl buy is expected to be significant.

"We have to make a huge impact to make it worth our while," the executive said.

Last January, ads cost some $1.6 million for a 30-second spot. For the January 2000 Super Bowl, ABC is seeking up to $2 million for a :30.

One longtime franchisee questioned the new Super Bowl strategy, saying the money might be better spent elsewhere.

A HISTORY ON BOWL

McDonald's has a rich history on the game. It advertised on the first Super Bowl and has won numerous awards for its commercials on the game in the more than three decades since.

A 1993 spot called "Showdown," from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, pitted basketball greats Larry Bird and Michael Jordan in a fierce hoops contest.

The last time the marketer appeared on the game was in 1996, when it spent $2.2 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

DDB appears to have a lot riding on the game. The agency recently acknowledged it is evolving the "Did Somebody Say McDonald's?" campaign (AA, May 10).

The new work is expected to dial up the emotional appeal of McDonald's.

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