Where there’s smoke there’s no fire for McDonald’s outdoor ad

Innovative outdoor advertising can work in one of two ways – grab your attention and interest, or in the case of one unfortunate McDonald’s ad, it can make you want to run away.  

It was no doubt a good idea when the creatives came up with a different way of promoting the fast-food giant’s free coffee offer.

In its bid to compete with the big coffee chains such as Starbucks, McDonald’s has been putting a lot of marketing muscle behind its coffee credentials and cheaper price tag, especially in markets where its McCafe outlets are yet to reach critical mass.

In this particular ad, created by Cossette in Canada and outdoor media company CBS Decaux, a steam machine was built inside a transit shelter to periodically burst out of a McDonald’s coffee cup with the message “Your Free Coffee Is Ready”.

Now, I’m all for innovation in the outdoor medium beyond the standard static ad. Adshel’s recent outdoor campaign for Nestle’s Aero comes to mind.

The outdoor company, which was also recently awarded the Mumbrella Readers Choice Award for media brand of the year, created and embedded bubble machines into its ad panels and bubbles were released at intervals in the morning and afternoon to catch school and working day commuters. It was effective in highlighting the main feature of the brand – the light, airy texture of the chocolate bar.

So in theory, the steaming cup of Maccas coffee placed on a site in the cold city of Vancouver, Canada, seemed like a good concept, coupled with good placement.

But unfortunately what they didn’t count on was that the steam could actually result in the opposite effect of driving potential customers away.

One lady is shown moving away from the panel upon seeing the steam coming out, while another man sitting at the bus shelter actually gets up and walks away looking somewhat perturbed, not knowing if the ad is on fire.

Not really the best advertisement for the brand or the outdoor company is it?

One thing’s for certain, when consumers start wondering if they should call the fire brigade, it’s a sure sign that it’s back to the outdoor drawing board.

Camille Alarcon


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