Marketing Chief Says Goal Is 'Create Advertising We Can Be Proud of'

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CHICAGO ( -- After a three-day pep rally to address how to improve its advertising and marketing, McDonald's Corp. this week issued a creative assignment to its top 10 agencies for new brand advertising that "people like, respect, admire and favor," the company's global chief marketing officer said.

Larry Light, the marketing executive, said there was "no magic formula" or deadline attached to the creative brief issued at the end of the meeting, other than to "create advertising that we could be proud of," he said.

'State of mind'
"This was not an event [where] you get a grade at the end," he said. "It was a state of mind and attitude that will never end."

Mr. Light said McDonald's issued

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global advertising standards and set up measurements to track performance for consumer perceptions, market penetration, brand loyalty and preference for its advertising. Although he stressed the aim wasn't to create a global ad campaign, Mr. Light said, "We're not going to preclude [a great local] idea from traveling."

He clarified that while McDonald's mission now is to be "America's favorite place and way to eat," what hasn't changed is McDonald's implicit brand promise that will be the basis for advertising.

Updating the brand promise
Mr. Light said original brand has four dimensions, first verbalized by founder Ray Kroc, that have been updated and paraphrased. They are: a vision of perfection, an exceptional eating experience for every customer every time, to give customers an emotional reward where they feel special and smile, and a spirit of youth and fun. "If we deliver on those four levels, we deliver on the promise of McDonald's," Mr. Light said.

"They want to do things differently," said Doug Porter, executive vice president worldwide, management director, for Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA. "The new thing that excites us is that top management is very involved and committed."

A critic of discounting
A longtime critic of discounting, Mr. Light repeated his oft-used mantra that "excessive emphasis on deals builds deal loyalty not real loyalty." "But that doesn't mean we will banish price communication from our marketing communication," he said.

He added that McDonald's value message shouldn't be a price message, but one that McDonald's is a "great brand at a great price, not just a [low] price."

Last week, franchisees on the chain's national advertising committee voted to remove the Big 'n Tasty burger from the Dollar Menu after it failed to spark add-on and trade-up sales and cut into margins. A vote to the entire franchisee base is expected to pass in the coming weeks.

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