McDonald's kicks off 'snack time' with viral effort

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To introduce its new line of snack foods McDonald's has created an online avatar campaign called "Take Back Snack Time."

The McDonald's campaign for the Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap, run by PR agency GolinHarris, includes the launch of microsite and a viral e-mail campaign with speaking avatars developed by Oddcast. The site targets office workers, encouraging consumers to e-mail snack-break invitations to friends that include a personalized avatar with an audio message.

"At McDonald's we like to speak to our customers in ways that are relevant to them," said Marta Fearon, director of US marketing at McDonald's. "With the rise in Internet activity and our customers' interest in being online, we thought the æTake Back Snack Time' viral campaign was a great opportunity to engage our audience and position McDonald's as a credible snacking destination."

The new campaign is inspired by the television series "The Office." It lets users create personalized male or female avatars in an office setting. The viral element invites site visitors to answer a series of questions that help uncover a colleague's afternoon work behavior.

Then it creates a talking avatar that invites the recipient to join in on Snack Time at McDonald's, joking or seriously with messages like, "because you work too hard." These customizable invitations can be sent to friends and family by visiting the site and clicking on the "invite your friends" link.

"[McDonald's] wanted to simulate an office environment so that you could create a character in that office and send invitations to your friends in your own office," said Emily Twomey, vice president of sales at Oddcast, New York. "It's a viral campaign whose message is, ælet's sneak out of the office and get a snack.'"

Oddcast claims that recipients of viral campaigns from their friends are 65 percent more likely to open than if it came from the brand. They are also 30 percent more likely to forward the e-mail to others.

In addition to the online element, McDonald's is also running the campaign in national television, radio and print, as well as sending Snack Teams to the streets of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami to hand out "Arch Cards," or coupons for a free Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap.

The office avatar campaign comes after other online viral initiatives by McDonald's. Burgercon lets consumers build invite friends for burgers by pasting links to a site that sings the praises of burger consumption with an electric guitar.

This follows the recent Taco Bell avatar campaign that was also promoting snack time. The food chain partnered with digital design firm Gizmoz and MTV for a campaign that will let consumers win the chance to star as animated talking characters in a 30-second Taco Bell television commercial. The 3-D talking characters are built from a consumer's photo and then posted on various social networking sites and blogs. The ad for "Fourthmeal," a Taco Bell-invented late-night meal between dinner and breakfast, will debut worldwide during the MTV Video Music Awards on September 9.


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