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McDonald’s sheds some light on new US agency, creative expectations and pay policy

Piecing together the details of Omnicom’s new DDB-based creative agency for McDonald’s is a diverting entertainment and some clues have emerged from an Adweek panel in New York.

McDonald’s CMO Deborah Wahl (below right with DDB’s Wendy Clark) said the company had decided to review out of 35-year incumbent Leo Burnett because “the world is changing dramatically and so is the way we engage customers..no matter what medium or device, we’re still looking for strong creative and engagement” and it was “time for a brand-new model.”


Also, on the company’s controversial payment by results model, she said its requirements from the agency were “aggressive” but had “profit built in.”

Which must have been a relief to co-panelist DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark (a former Coca-Cola marketer) who observed that “you need to be able to put out incredibly good work at the speed and pace of the marketplace and do so efficiently.” She also said that McDonald’s staff were going to be embedded in the as yet un-named agency, in the cause of “collaboration.”

Ad Age reports that McDonald’s produced 2,500 pieces of creative content in 2015 and a rather boggling 5,000 so far this year, which seems to be the key to it all.

The considered, some might say leisurely, historic creation and production methods in ad agencies hardly seem to suit such a frenetic pace. It might be asked if McDonald’s hasn’t got rather carried away by the plethora of digital opportunities out there – some no doubt valuable but others less so, even non-existent in some cases.

There are still some questions to be answered. The first one is what’s the damned thing going to be called? Omnicom has already used up Hearts & Science for its mega new media agency, home to AT&T and P&G in North America and $7bn of their billings. This was rather derided when it surfaced but seems to have played well with America’s two biggest advertisers. H&S has recently launched in the UK, just in time for P&G’s £210m UK media pitch.

Another is what form the promised payment by results takes but we’re unlikely to discover that. The third is what all this multi-channel multi-device work looks like. One problem McDonald’s has, especially in the US, is that it’s a franchise business so the franchisees have to approve major marketing initiatives. Often they don’t, preferring to stick with what they know works – or works to a degree – than approve something dramatically different.

When McDonald’s introduced its “healthy” but over-priced apple slices in the UK a few years ago the franchisees revolted.

As to the work presumably we’ll be seeing quite a lot of it soon. At the current rate of 800 or so bits of content a month there should be a torrent of the stuff.

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