"We will soon shift from the franchisees to the customers," said Brad Ball, senior VP-marketing for McDonald's USA, adding that consumers now have a definite idea of which McDonald's is their favorite-or "My McDonald's."
However, the 55-cent sandwich program this campaign is supporting has been modified due to some customer dissatisfaction, said Mr. Ball.
The Wall Street Journal Friday reported sales were declining recently in outlets surveyed by McDonald's.
McDonald's has changed its pricing so customers can buy small-size drinks and fries to get a 55-cent sandwich. On average, he said, customers will save $1.
Previously, customers had to buy regular- or large-size drinks and fries. That condition did not significantly lower the overall tab, compared to the price of everyday value meals.
Despite this change, Mr. Ball gave the program-based on the company's founding year, 1955-an upbeat evaluation.
"Breakfast [with 55-cent Egg McMuffins] is doing exceptionally well," he said. "Big Macs are on target."
Other sandwiches will be rotated into the program through next year, he said.
Although one of this year's major promotions didn't go as planned, Mr. Ball said share is increasing for the first time in six quarters and sales have improved in the first four months of the year.
PLEASED WITH AGENCIES
And, with changes at agency Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, the fast-food executive said he is pleased now with its agency roster.
"If we didn't have a tremendous revision [in our marketing operations], it may [have been] a problem for" Burnett, said Mr. Ball.
Speaking at the Western States Advertising Agencies Association's annual meeting in La Quinta, Calif., on May 3, Mr. Ball called the short-lived relationship with Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, for the Arch Deluxe introduction, the "creative spark" McDonald's marketing needed.
"The U.S. business was in trouble, and the franchisees were really mad," he said of the time when he became marketing director in late 1995.
"Sometimes you have to quell your own organization to get things back on track," he said.
Pricing and franchisees aren't the only challenges he has faced, said Mr. Ball. A giveaway of Beanie Babies stuffed toys seemed to create more interest in the dolls than the food that accompanied it, he acknowledged.
McDonald's exhausted its supply of 81 million Beanie Babies in two weeks, well short of the intended five weeks. Some customers, he noted, purchased the required meals to get the toys but left the food at the restaurant.
"Definitely the challenge is to find ways of making the food as much the star,"