The new character is McDonald's first since the 1980s, and the videos represent the first new platform for Ronald McDonald since he appeared in advertising to promote the Arch Deluxe adult sandwich line two years ago.
BUILDING BRAND EQUITY
According to an internal memo, the goal of the videos, launching in October and aimed at kids ages 2 to 9, is to "build Ronald's brand equity and emotional connection with kids by getting as many videos in homes as possible." The memo said the launch will be backed with a heavy kids' TV ad schedule.
Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, handles kids advertising but declined to comment on whether it was involved in the video project. McDonald's couldn't be reached for comment at presstime.
The 40-minute videos will be sold for $2.99 with the purchase of a Happy Meal and will use animation from the creators of the popular "Rugrats" series on Nickelodeon and live action footage.
MAGICALLY AND COMICALLY
Ronald will be portrayed in the videos as a friend to kids and a hero who "magically and sometimes comically solves mysteries and problems in exotic and exciting locations kids can easily relate to and understand," according to the memo. A new video is slated to be introduced each quarter, with projected sales of 3 million units per video per quarter.
Joining Ronald in advertising is a new character on the block at McDonaldland. A hairy green blob with a purple tongue, named "Iam Hungry," the new character with a voracious appetite and an obnoxious personality made his debut in a campaign from Burnett that broke quietly in mid-February.
The 30-second spot combines computer-generated animation with live action and shows "Iam Hungry" swooping out of nowhere to the entrance of a McDonald's where an 8-year-old boy is interacting with Ronald McDonald. "I want lunch. Give me food," demands the green glob, who won't give up until he gets a cheeseburger.
The new tagline penned by DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, "Did Somebody Say McDonald's?" doesn't appear at the end, but the music that supports it does.
Peter Oakes, an analyst who tracks McDonald's for Merrill Lynch & Co., said the "Iam Hungry" character "sounds like an attempt to further enhance" McDonald's leading position in kids marketing.
sees move as inappropriate
One executive with a multi-unit McDonald's franchise in the Southeast said he wasn't aware of the video project, and he believes it is an inappropriate move.
"I think we should stick to the food business and sell food products. I don't think we should be in the videotape market or the record or CD market. We should concentrate on the brand equity, which is our core food products."