Small Fries: McDonald's Features 'Spy Kids' in Its First Online Game

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McDonald's Corp. breaks its first online contest today as part of a Happy Meal and Mighty Kids Meal promotion with Miramax/Dimension Film's "Spy Kids" movie.

Running through April 18, the Ultimate Spy Game requires consumers to buy one of the meals that include a free coded spy-themed toy. Children can enter the secret code at and answer trivia questions on "Spy Kids" and McDonald's to win prizes.

"One of the reasons we went this route is to gain learning as to how a program like this would perform," said Douglas Freeland, director of entertainment properties at McDonald's Corp., Oak Brook, IL. "It was a natural fit to go along with the toys we've developed for this time period."

Freeland said the online game was born after a realization that "Spy Kids," McDonald's Happy Meal and its new Mighty Kids Meal targeted the same audience of children younger than 10.

"It was just a natural extension to develop this online game, because kids that are this age are more apt to go online and experience the world of online than, say, a much younger kid of 3 or 4 or 5 years," Freeland said.

Codes for the game can be found on nine toys such as the spy camera, spy fooglie identifier, spy light and launcher, spy glasses, spy watch, spy squirter, invisible spy pen, spy motion detector and spy phone.

The toys have a spy function modeled after the movie. They are functional in the sense that one can insert a 110 mm film roll in the spy camera and click away.

Contestants can win prizes such as an Isuzu Axiom car donated by Miramax, Kodak DC 290 digital cameras, Foster Grant children's sunglasses and children's movie tickets.

McDonald's expects that the lure of prizes will encourage sales of its meals.

"The in-store merchandising that's in the restaurant that calls attention to this online game is positioned as a family game, and so the insert on the toy bag tells kids to grab their parents and go online and play the game," Freeland said.

Participants in the Ultimate Spy Game who do not win a prize can print a coupon from the site for a free pack of McDonaldland cookies in their next purchase of a Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal.

The Marketing Store Worldwide, Westmont, IL, handled the online games promotion for McDonald's.

While the online contest pushes store traffic to the Internet, the coupon rounds off that experience by drawing consumers back to McDonald's restaurants to buy the meals again.

A permanent addition to the McDonald's menu, the Mighty Kids Meal targets children age 8 to 10. The Happy Meal, on the other hand, targets children age 3 to 7.

The Mighty Kids Meal has the same small french fries, beverage combo and toy as the Happy Meal. But its entrée includes a double cheeseburger, double hamburger or six-piece chicken McNuggets.

On the other hand, the Happy Meal entrée includes a hamburger, cheeseburger or four-piece chicken McNuggets.

Like many traditional consumer products and food marketers, McDonald's still exercises caution with the Internet.

For its maiden online effort, McDonald's will collect no data from minors, in keeping with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The federal law requires sites that collect information to obtain parental consent and to post privacy policies.

"It's a very sensitive issue," Freeland said.

"If [a consumer wins], then they'll get a special code and an 800 number to call, and there's an independent fulfillment firm which will then collect the information and ship the prize to them, separate from McDonald's," he said. "We'll in no way, shape or form be collecting personal data."

Still, McDonald's sees a potential benefit in slowly moving its promotions to the Web.

"We've done a number of in-store value-added programs during the Happy Meals promotion," Freeland said, "and one of the things we've learned from our franchisers or owner/operators is that sometimes the amount of clutter inside the restaurant becomes a problem for them from an operations point."

The Internet promotion, he said, "enables us to again enhance the consumer impact with minimal impact on the store because all this is happening online."

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