An actress in a yellow dress stands in front of a red curtain. She tells you about Coke and about Google, but it’s not a commercial for either of those things… and you’ll have to search a catch phrase to find out what it is for. It is, apparently, “unbranded marketing” for McDonald’s… but will it work?
The campaign started last week, the New York Times reports. In the commercials, actress Mindy Kaling asks viewers to search Google for “that place where Coke tastes so good.” The idea is that doing so will lead you to discover that Coke apparently tastes so good at McDonald’s.
The ads don’t mention the restaurant chain’s name anywhere. It’s part of their first “unbranded marketing campaign,” the Times writes. And that probably feels strange, since usually the point of advertising is to, y’know, promote a brand.
The goal is to reach teenaged and twenty-something viewers of TV (i.e. everyone’s favorite marketing demographic du jour, young millennials) in the place where they live: their phones. Young viewers almost certainly have a device to hand while watching their favorite shows, and can perhaps be persuaded to engage by Googling.
The commercial almost like advertising as clickbait. Not in the “one weird trick” sense we’ve all grown inured to online, but rather, a TV ad that barely hints at what it’s for and instead, convices you to go search a catch phrase.
It’s impossible to avoid comparing McDonald’s “oh please go look this up” approach with the tactic Burger King took earlier this month of trying to force Google Home devices to engage and tell their owners about Whoppers.
In both cases, the ad is outsourcing a lot of the drudge work of conveying details to Google and the viewer. In McDonald’s case, though, the ad is trying to convince you to act on normal curiosity. In BK’s case, it was trying to turn your tech into an advertising accomplice. (Google disabled the ad from triggering its Home devices within a day.)
The company says it has no plans to game the results. “Google didn’t give us any tricks on search or anything,” McDonald’s chief marketing officer in the U.S. told the NYT.
What they’re helping us do is understand if people are really searching as a result of this, and offering close feedback and collaboration in terms of what’s happening with this with real behavior,” she continued.
But the McDonald’s campaign is subject to the same challenge of any ad campaign that relies on the general world of search or social media to function, though: People like to screw with stuff. McDonald’s itself learned the perils of hashtag campaigns back in 2014, for example.
So if McDonald’s isn’t planning to push the “right” results, are they prepared for jokesters to try to promote the “wrong” ones?
The CMO told the Times that they are prepared for people to try to mess with the results, which seems like an inevitability. But, she added, they are expecting a positive reaction given that people apparently already have positive feelings about Coke and McDonald’s.
But will seeing Mindy Kaling in McD’s trademark red and yellow be enough to convince viewers they need to go get some McNuggets and a Coke, or will they just shrug and start brigading some less savory search result instead?
A McDonald’s Ad That Never Mentions the Name McDonald’s [New York Times]