Pulls National Waves of Players; Promotes Burgers and Game Sales

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NEW YORK -- While branded video games are nothing new for mainstream marketers, McDonald's Corp. and WildTangent teamed up to produce a new twist in the promotional concept that netted both companies big returns.
McDonald's Monopoly offers customers the chance to go online and use a key code to access high-quality games as prizes.

WildTangent, a major manufacturer of online games based in Redmond, Wash., normally sells its entertainment products in the standard way to consumers. But in a deal as part of the most recent McDonald's Monopoly promotion, it agreed to create online demo versions of its best-selling games re-engineered to include McDonald's product placements throughout.

Two-way promotion

In the two-way promotion, McDonald's then used the online demo games as prizes that could be won in its Monopoly contest and WildTangent used the same demos to lure interested players to its Web site to purchase the full versions of the games online for $20 each.

In an arrangement that both companies now describe as a win-win, McDonald's got high-quality games to offer as prizes to millions of customers while WildTangent got to introduce its games to millions who were previously unaware of them.

"McDonald's not only had a lot of success branding games to our audience, it is now one of the largest distributors of WildTangent games," said Alex St. John, chief executive officer of the online game publisher.

The four demo online games are easy to play, mind-bending and ultimately addictive. "They are fast-food games," quipped Dave Madden, executive vice president of sales and marketing at WildTangent.

'Polar Bowler'

The top seller of the joint promotion has been "Polar Bowler," in which a chubby, happy polar bear rides a chunk of ice down a hill into bowling pins stamped with the golden arches logo.
McDonald's Monopoly offers customers the chance to go online and use a key code to access high-quality games as prizes.

It has logged 300,000 unique players during the month for an average of 40 minutes per person, according to WildTangent. Other top titles are "Polar Golf," "Shooting Stars Pool" and "Blaster Ball 2."

The overall Monopoly campaign, which ran for four weeks starting Oct. 12, is credited by McDonald's with increasing its comparable-store sales 7% for October compared with the same month last year, said Geoff Miller, interactive marketing director for The Marketing Store Worldwide, McDonald's promotions agency.

Larry Light initiative

The novel initiative is driven by McDonald's chief marketing officer, Larry Light, and his new strategy. Mr. Light has generated much debate in marketing circles with his declarations earlier this year that mass marketing is dead and one-to-one communications and branded entertainment are the new wave marketers must ride to succeed. Mr. Miller said the Monopoly and online game cross-promotions were one of the fast-food giant's "first big pushes to be more relevant and immediate to its customers."

The Marketing Store crafted an online Monopoly game branded with McDonald's name and characters that McDonald's customers could play when they logged onto a special Web site and keyed in a number on a game piece they peeled off hamburger and drink packaging. When players landed on certain board spaces, they could choose from an array of 18 prizes from digital sponsors including WildTangent, SonyConnect, Netflix and Electronic Arts. The average player entered eight prize codes online, Mr. Miller said.

800 million games pieces

Some 800 million game pieces have been distributed for the promotion. There were more than 6 million winners. Because of its popularity, the Monopoly game will be available for two extra weeks in order to allow people to key in codes and collect prizes.

For McDonalds, the game-as-prizes idea went over big because it extended the playing concept of the Monopoly promotion and increased traffic during the campaign's multiple-week run, Mr. Miller said. "There were many ways to win by playing the online game," he added.
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