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For decades now, McDonald's Corp. has earned accolades as one of the best marketers around; in fact, the best. In 1990, it was named Advertising Age's Marketer of the 1980s. Advertising slogans such as "You deserve a break today," "You, you're the one" and "It's a good time for the great taste of McDonald's" were just right for their times and built McDonald's into a giant.

But suddenly (in the overall scheme of things) Big Mac has been stumbling-not just once, but continually. And all this as Burger King Corp. finally shed its "gang-that-couldn't-shoot-straight" heritage to become a smart food operation.

Since last year, McDonald's heralded new Arch Deluxe sandwich line generated only mixed results; a Teenie Beanie Babies promotion was canceled shortly after it began because the supply of giveaway items quickly ran out (leaving many kids and parents frustrated); and the ambitious "Campaign 55" marketing strategy, launched in April as an 18-month program, was curtailed after having lasted just a few weeks longer than the Beanie Babies.

Now reports indicate McDonald's executives and franchisees are trying to come up with local-market promotions to generate the sales excitement that the disappointing national programs did not attain. Meanwhile, a proud marketing organization is left with TV ads that sell Disney music CDs more than McDonald's food.

McDonald's, of course, still controls 40% of a $39 billion industry with sales growing 6% a year and income 10%. And maybe there's the problem. More stores don't cure a tired menu, and don't guarantee fast and friendly service. And ubiquity alone doesn't generate brand loyalty-even if "My McDonald's" is the ad theme.

It's time for the company that invented Hamburger U. to go back to school. What may be McDonald's most famous slogan, albeit an internal one, is being forgotten today. That slogan was QSC&V, and for decades it was this company's guiding light. Quality food; fast, friendly Service; Cleanliness; and Value. Please note that this rallying cry focuses, in every aspect, on the consumer. Lately, McDonald's embraced another corporate mantra. As recent annual reports put it, the focus is on Execution, Convenience and Value.

For such a huge company, execution certainly is important. But convenience seems satisfied by the sheer numbers of stores, and if value means the ever-present, mostly confusing price promotions, then give it up for the sake of brand building. What's missing today is more important, that old QSC: Quality food; fast, friendly Service; Cleanliness. The neglect of those is something no advertising jingle can cover for.

No ad v-chip

If reed hundt's intent is to scare the ad industry, he's right on course. The Federal Communications Commission chairman has done so by suggesting that V-chip technology might be used to allow viewers to electronically blank out TV liquor ads.

But this idea also will help sink Chairman Hundt's entire anti-liquor advertising crusade. Even the suggestion that FCC might sanction ad "zapping" with the Vchip should, we hope, mobilize TV advertisers that otherwise care little about the liquor industry, or its desire to do broadcast advertising, to oppose any further FCC action.

And it should give Chairman Hundt's fellow FCC commissioners one more reason to vote against the FCC turning itself into a debating platform for every real and imagined concern about alcoholic beverage advertising.

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