Despite having the best food quality and safety practices in the industry, McDonald’s had become the example for everything that is wrong with quick-service restaurants and mass produced food. Internet and social media were fuelling the proliferation of negative myths and rumours about McDonald’s food while competitors like Subway, Tim Horton’s and Wendy’s were touting consistent “fresh” messaging like: “Eat Fresh”, “Brewed Fresh” and “Fresh, never frozen”, respectively.

To remain competitive in the crowded Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) category, McDonald’s needed to improve their food quality perception and displace the negative sentiments being communicated online. The brand required a platform to engage consumers in their food quality story that would allow it to listen, engage, respond and amplify.

Project
McDonald’s Canada
Client
Our Food. Your Questions™
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Listen

Prior to the campaign launch, we conducted an extensive listening audit, to uncover key McDonald’s myths and misperceptions among Fence-sitters. Then, we placed a key listening device at the heart of the campaign: a simple, powerful Q&A mechanic.

Engage

The Q&A platform provided a forum for users to engage with the brand by asking pressing questions about McDonald’s food.

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Respond

We then answered their questions about our food, giving users exactly what they wanted: an honest, humble and radically transparent sightline into McDonald’s operations. We knew we could respond this way because McDonald’s Canada had a great food quality story to share that was being overpowered by the salacious nature of the myths propagating online. By listening, first, and then providing transparent answers to personal consumer questions – via the Q&A mechanic – McDonald’s Canada could become part of the online conversation where Fence-sitters were going for information and opinions.

Amplify

We then took some of the most provocative questions and amplified them with media. By placing the McDonald’s logo beside negative questions, we sent a strong signal to Fence-sitters that the brand was not afraid of the answers, or the truth. Our amplification strategy also created a virtuous cycle of awareness that inspired even more Canadians to engage and ask questions.

The Results

McDonald’s experienced a dramatic shift in its Food Quality scores and successfully changed the conversation around their food.

100,000
Questions asked 
and answered
9,000,000
Answers read
60,000,000
Video answers viewed
599
Media hits
139,000,000
Impressions in 2012 
alone
3,700,000
Website visits

Radical transparency stimulates engagement and rebuilds trust

Thorough and in-depth research uncovered three target segments: McDonald’s Lovers, Haters, and Fence-sitters. Previous advertising focused on brand Lovers by talking to them about products they already loved. “Product” led the messaging, with ingredient stories and deeper food quality credentials a distant second.

However, the bulk of online conversation was happening between Haters, who rarely ate at McDonald’s, and Fence-sitters, the approximately 60% of Canadians who were partial to McDonald’s but were negatively influenced by the myths they’d been seeing online.

Uncovering the opportunity to reshape the conversation and effect change in perception scores, we knew that by targeting fence-sitters we could affect the biggest change. But, the only way they’d start listening to us, is if we started listening to them.

Enabling transparency

A Q&A platform on McDonalds.ca enabled Canadians to connect through their Facebook or Twitter profiles and ask McDonald’s Canada any question about its food.

Once a question was received, our response team, comprising agency creatives and McDonald’s Food Quality experts, answered each one with a text, image or personal video response. Responses were then posted publicly for everyone to see.

In cases that addressed the bigger myths facing the brand, we shared video responses that gave Canadians an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at McDonald’s operations. Nothing was off-limits. McDonalds took viewers to the ranches where cattle were kept, to the processing plant where the beef was ground and turned into patties, and subjected its own Chicken McNuggets to forensic testing. We even took viewers to a photo studio to show them how the food is stylized for a photo shoot.

YouTube videos

To ensure visibility, all videos were hosted on YouTube. McDonald’s Canada’s YouTube channel was also home to a carousel featuring other videos related to the campaign and a Q&A entry field that mirrored the mechanic available on the main site allowing users to ask their questions directly from the YouTube page

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Television ads

The Q&A platform provided insight into the most prevalent and widely held assumptions about McDonald’s food. This information became the content for a TV spot that featured those questions and then drove viewers to the site where they could get answers and ask their own questions.

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Out of Home and Print ads

Out of Home advertising, in the form of high-impact transit station takeovers and wild postings, featured some of the most provocative questions asked. Without revealing the answer, they encouraged Canadians to visit the website to find out more.

The campaign also took over the front page of one of Canada’s largest free daily newspaper, Metro, similar to transit station takeovers. The most provocative questions were brought to the front, driving Canadians to the site to find the answers and learn more about the quality food served at McDonald’s restaurants.

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