McDonald’s Making A Splash For Fry Supremacy

McDonald’s fries have historically won the argument over which national chain has the best fries.  Even though I haven’t eaten there for years, I still cherish how much I liked their fries.  It seems I’m not alone in not enjoying their fries for a while as fry sales have had a bit of a dip over the past 5 years due to the collective downplay of those types of fast-food staples for more nutritional options.  McDonald’s even went so far as to minimize the size of their small and kids meal fries (adding apple slices in the kid’s mix.) But now, they feel it is time to take charge of what rightfully may be theirs – fry supremacy – with a creative (or at least provocative) campaign surrounding 11-11-11.  For on this day, in Chicago, they have deemed Friday, “Fryday.”

From the outset, it seems like the campaign is a smart one – if only for the statement and morale of those in their corporate offices  just outside of Chicago-proper.  With billboards using fries as the ones in 11-11-11 and ketchup spots acting as dashes, they seem to have placed their fry in the ground to ensure that they maintain supremacy. If attempting to take marketing learnings from this, one could say that it is strong business as you can’t let up even if you’re at the top.  I think it is a way to cover that marketing angle, but more likely a fun way to leverage the date that we won’t see again for another century. 

In addition to the billboard play on 11-11-11 (last Fryday), they plan to have a pair of searchlights shoot into the sky every night until the end of Nov from the chain’s flagship location at the intersection of Clark and Ontario Streets. On Fryday, they offered small fries at half price and also had a contest with local chef and football players for the best meal to go along with the fries.

Now, besides the inopportune grumbling from a few that it was not tasteful to do this on Veteran’s Day (sorry about your luck as the date is the date – and it doesn’t come around much), there are a few things that do appear to be odd choices.  Granted, they could have downplayed the whole thing – both in scale and scope – due to the date falling on Veteran’s Day or the knowledge that tastes are shifting when it comes to nutrition.  Here’s the questioning of a few odd choices.

  • Why didn’t they roll it out to other markets – at least on-air where a spot having fun with the fry-shaped date palindrome could have been inserted into their regular rotation?
  • If you’re going to have the spotlights hit the skies through to the end of the 11th month of the 11th year, why not extend just another month to close out ’11 in high style?
  • Isn’t it a little bit odd to have a cook-off to determine the best dish to go with the fries?  Shouldn’t that already exist on the menu?
  • Even with an execution just in Chicago, there was enough narrative to generate excitement about the coming 11.11.11 and even the fact that ’11 could be the year of the Fry.  Even on a cost-effective, well-placed scale digitally, this could have been huge for the company.  Again, the dates don’t lend themselves like this often, so you’ve got to take advantage.

All of the above lead me to believe that it was executed primarily to entertain the corporate office and its home city – which just happens to be a decent-sized city.  If so, they’ve done a good job and have probably done so with little cost and big upside.

In the end, whether I eat their fries or not, McDonald’s Fries still reign supreme in my mind – and this campaign just reminded me of it.

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