McDonald's: Creating adult appeal

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 16, 2003
The latest television commercial for McDonald's is part of a series of ads that target adults and sell McDonald's as a fun experience for grown-ups. Here's why

A man, presumably on his way back from office, opens the letterbox at the gate to find an invitation to a birthday party at McDonald's. The man walks into his house and hands his son the invite. The son is suitably thrilled, but doesn't seem to know the kid who has sent the invite. 'Daddy, yeh Vineet kaun hai?' he enquires, looking at the name signed on the card. Dad seems equally clueless, so the mother helpfully suggests that it could, perhaps, be a colleague's son. Dad shrugs, disinterested.

Sensing his father's mood, the son slowly asks whether they would be attending the party. The father offers a noncommittal 'Pata nahin…' although his body language suggests that he'd like to give the party a skip. The son immediately shifts into convincing-mode. He puts the idea of 'McCurry Pan', 'Wraps' and 'Filet-o-Fish' into his father's head. The mouthwatering imagery has the desired effect, and the father comes around by saying, 'Kuchh gift toh le jaana padega.'

Back at the McDonald's outlet, the now-boisterous father seeks out the kid who has sent his son the invite. 'Where's the birthday boy?' he shouts cheerily. Just then, someone bumps into him. He turns to find himself face to face with his boss, wearing a party hat and blowing on a whistle merrily. Surprised at seeing his boss at the party, he gropes for words - when the penny drops. 'Vineet… Chopra…' he stammers, even as his boss takes the gift meant for him. The gift - a plastic cricket set - soon has both grown-ups going red to the roots, of course. 'McDonald's ke naye swaad aise, ki bade se bade phisle,' goes the voiceover, followed by the signoff, 'Toh aaj McDonald's ho jaaye!'

This is the latest Indian television commercial for global quick service restaurant (QSR) chain, McDonald's. The ad, quite clearly, targets adults by selling McDonald's as a fun experience for grown-ups. Here's why, in the words of Hemant Misra, president, Mudra Communications, Delhi. "Kids have always been the natural audience for McDonald's, and we've had great success in marketing the brand to kids in India. However, we have also noted that adults, despite accompanying their wards, were not enjoying the McDonald's experience as much as could be hoped for." Reasons for this could be attributed to Indian adult tastes and product form - which, in the case of McDonald's, was essentially the burger. Also, the McDonald's-and-kids connect is perhaps embedded too strongly in adult minds. "Adults saw McDonald's as a place where kids enjoyed themselves, but they believed that there was very little in it for adults," Misra explains.

Adult patronage is closely linked to McDonald's fortunes in India - in more ways than one. For one, pester power, for all it is worth, has its limitations. When it comes to eating out, Indian parents (especially the Indian father) can affect family choice, and kids can be wooed elsewhere easily (the kid, after all, just wants to go out). "Even a kid loyal to McDonald's has only that much say in such decisions, and can be overruled by the parent," says Misra. "So it becomes critical that adults are favourably disposed to the brand."

Then there is the issue of kids moving up the consumption chain at McDonald's. The Happy Meal may be a huge hit with kids, but as kids mature, they outgrow Happy Meals. The natural progression would be onto products like the Big Mac, but it's for parents to introduce such products to kids. "If the adult is not positively disposed to McDonald's, kids who have outgrown the Happy Meal will just stop coming back," explains Misra. "However, we want fathers to introduce kids to other McDonald's products and help them graduate from Happy Meals. And that will happen only when the adult keeps coming back."

It's not only about kids. The idea is also to get the adult/office-going crowd to walk into McDonald's more often, especially with more and more outlets opening in non-residential areas. "Family outings with kids happen only in the evenings, and on weekends and holidays, but there's a lot of adult traffic that happens on weekday afternoons, in the form of lunches with colleagues and associates," Misra points out. McDonald's doesn't want to lose these footfalls to a surfeit of rivals - from Udupi joints to MNC pizza chains to city-specific QSRs such as the Nirulas and the Kamaths. Clearly, the Indian adult is a valued species at McDonald's…

Efforts to reach out to adults can be traced back to end-2002, and weren't limited to communication. "Seeing the need to cater to the Indian adult's tastes, the client brought about innovations in the product offerings," reveals Misra. "The idea was to create something novel about McDonald's that appealed even to grown-ups." The first 'adult product' that was unveiled was the Wraps (the communication for the product focused on a father's obsession with the Wrap, which made him see a Wrap in everything from a tie to a handkerchief). Next in line was the Chinese Burger (the ad was about two grown-ups karate fighting over a burger). Then came the McCurry Pan, a product concept that, within the McDonald's network, is unique to India (the ad was about adults sharing a McCurry Pan in a manner that suggested a smooch session to onlookers).

"We used products such as the Wrap and the McCurry Pan to make McDonald's more appealing to adults, and the advertising reflected this," says Misra. "Having spoken about the products, we are now talking to adults about a McDonald's property - the McDonald's birthday party." Incidentally, the birthday party is a concept integral to McDonald's the world over. "The birthday party is one of the icons of McDonald's for kids. Along with Ronald and the Happy Meals, the birthday party is a driver of the McDonald's construct, for not only does it drive sales, it is a strong relationship builder."

Of course, Misra is the first to admit that this ad is not aimed at getting adults to celebrate their birthdays at McDonald's. "It's not to be taken so literally, for that is impractical," he smiles. "We are not promoting McDonald's birthday parties for adults, and we are not saying that henceforth, adults will start celebrating their birthdays at McDonald's. All we are implying is that people celebrate their birthdays only at places they are comfortable in, so this ad is about adults finding a comfort zone at McDonald's. All we want to communicate is that McDonald's is a fun place and a great experience for kids as well as adults." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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