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McDonald?s fans mobile strategy with real-time, real-world interactions

McDonald?s, already a leading mobile marketer, kicked up its efforts a notch this year by leveraging real-time technology to support how consumers use their smartphones to engage with the real world while driving traffic into a nearby location. 

A McDonald?s campaign that ran earlier this year in Kuala Lumpur featured a digital billboard in a busy town square, with passersby able to direct what was happening on the screen by using their smartphones. The Save the Sundae Cone campaign drove significant brand engagement on a mobile Web site as well as coupon redemptions, helping McDonald?s to raise awareness of its ice cream offerings in Malaysia?s capital.   

?A total of 265 sundaes were ?saved? over the campaign period, with a total of 1825 coupons given out to at least 170 people,? said Reza Rosli, technologist and technical director at Arc Worldwide/Leo Burnett. ?Considering that we only had 960 minutes total airtime, we were able to drive on average 5 customers into the store per minute.

?In my opinion, the more important measure of success in this case, is how much time was spent per customer on the mobile site, from which we can infer was the average time spent to login, play, then walk over to the nearby McDonald's outlet, queue up and redeem the reward,? he said. ?On average this was 7 minutes per customer, which I think says something about how fast McDonald's was able to serve them, considering that the outlet is usually very busy. 

?One might also say that this was how much time we were able to engage each customer with the brand, so considering a typical billboard advertisement might be able to make someone pay just a few seconds of attention to the message, we were able to use interactivity to increase the attention time, which was what Moving Walls appreciated.?

McDonald?s worked with agency Leo Burnett Malaysia, ARC Worldwide and data stream network PubNub on the effort. 

Spin the fan
The digital billboard, the area?s first Internet-connected billboard, appeared in a busy shopping district. On the billboard was featured an image of a McDonald?s ice cream cone that was slowly melting in the city heat and copy that encouraged passersby to spin a giant fan to cool down the ice cream and stop it from melting.

McDonald's representatives were also walking around encouraging passersby to spin the fan. 

To spin the fan, passersby were instructed to go to a microsite on their smartphones where they were able to control the fan by spinning a mini replica fan that appeared on their phones.  Doing so also enabled them to download a coupon that could be redeemed at a nearby location. 

The more people that interacted with the microsite, the faster the fan would spin. 

The McDonald's Save the Sundae Cone campaign was run as an entry for Moving Wall's Moving Minds Challenge, which was a competition held to coincide with Moving Wall's new giant LED screen in Kuala Lumpur. The challenge was to showcase the interactive possibilities of the screen, which had a broadband Internet connection, as well as other instruments such as cameras and Kinect.

Audience participation
In digital advertising, brands are often looking for ways to multiple user audience participation and real-time activations to bring added excitement to their efforts. However, this can be challenging to execute from a technology perspective. 

PubNub?s technology promises to make it less resource-intensive for brands to deploy real-time, audience-participation campaigns. 

Another challenge for marketers is in finding a way to simply and intuitively communicate how the audience participation works. 

?Mobile devices coupled with the real-time messaging capability from PubNub we brought into play allowed us to explore ideas which were a class apart from our competitors,? Mr. Rosli said. 

?I think the key factor which made the idea work so well was the simple though absurd story that a cooling fan could save the melting sundae,? he said. ?Although Moving Walls were also actively engaging with passers-by to get them to participate and showing them how to, our audience intuitively knew what to do and didn't take long to start enjoying the experience. 

?We've heard some negative criticism saying that such a thing is physically impossible ? sure ? but the point the critics are missing is that it was both easy to understand and fun.?

Real-world engagements
The McDonald?s Save the Sundae Cone campaign is the latest example of how brands are leveraging technology to make their real-world marketing efforts more engaging. 

For example, a Pepsi Max campaign this spring used augmented reality to turn one of the walls in a bus shelter in London into a fake window that appeared to show a number of different unlikely scenarios happening on the street behind, such as flying saucers descending, a robot attacking and a tiger running loose. 

Pepsi gained a viral lift from the effort as commuters took out their mobile phones to record what they were seeing and post it to social media (see story). 

Enabling real-world engagements with brands is one of mobile?s big promises for marketers but first attempts via tactics such as QR codes lacked clear calls to action or contextual relevancy. More recently, Bluetooth-enabled beacons and image recognition hold out the promise of better user experiences but challenges still remain (see story). 

?It is still surprisingly hard to build a digital campaign where you have the participation of the audience,? said Todd Greene, founder and CEO of PubNub.
?The most people ever think about is building a chat but there are so many other interesting things that can be done,? he said. 

?What has made things hard is the amount of technology needed to create audience participation kinds of events. It tends to be so difficult that it just doesn?t make sense for a short-lived advertising campaign which is where PubNub comes in.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York