Let’s go back to making ads for consumers – not each other

The problem with marketing today, is that it's marketing to other marketers, not consumers, argues Public Address' Shane Allison - and nothing proves this more than the "abject failure" of the collaboration between Burger King and McDonald's.

What do Dove’s real beauty, Dundee Movie, Black Supermarket and Dream Crazy have in common? They don’t feel like ads. The thing about great marketing is that consumers don’t feel like they’re being sold a product.

By this measure, Burger King failed abjectly when they dreamed up the ‘A day without whopper’ campaign to promote sales of the Big Mac on McHappy Day, the annual event where McDonald’s donates $2 from every one of its signature burgers sold to its charity.

The problem is, consumers everywhere know that if McDonald’s wanted too, they could just donate a bunch of cash to their charity. Same with Burger King – if they wanted to, they could.

The net impact on Burger King’s sales wasn’t huge, as customers already turned up to the fast food outlet and after getting annoyed, ordered something different. Same with McDonald’s – they didn’t go out of their way to grab a Big Mac, they just turned up to have their favourite burgers. The marketers behind this campaign would have already had a deep understanding of this consumer behaviour and known that there wouldn’t have been a business impact from it.

This is the problem with marketing today, and yet another example of marketers marketing to themselves, not to consumers.

Consumers can smell the whiff of self-indulgent marketing from a mile off. They get it when they’re being sold a pipe dream that is two marketing teams trying to out-creative each other.

So it frustrated me to see this campaign from 2017 making the rounds of social media again after Burger King made an offer to recycle McDonald’s plastic toys, with many of my colleagues from adland congratulating each other on the difference that can be made through advertising, and completely ignoring the fact that the community sees this as the shallow act it is.

Let’s be clear. I’m not against donating to charity. Ronald McDonald House Charities support 57,000 families every year and supporting a cause such as this is a great example of corporate philanthropy in action.

But let’s not pretend that there’s anything of real substance in either McHappy Day, or in this campaign from Burger King.

In 2018, Mastercard was condemned around the globe for its campaign which saw 10,000 meals for starving children donated every time Lionel Messi and Neymar scored. Why is this any different for McDonald’s, and why are we treating Burger King any differently when they jump on the act?

While we haven’t had the high-profile clangers of Pepsi and Kendall Jenner, there’s enough Australian campaigns that have been pulled in 2019 for offending swathes of the population, or just plain missing the mark, to diagnose the community with a serious case of introspection.

Let’s stop the navel gazing, look out of the bubble and spend less time creating campaigns to impress each other – or awards judges.

Shane Allison is the co-founder of Public Address 


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