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How "Angry Birds" ignited sales at McDonald's

How "Angry Birds" ignited sales at McDonald's David Zaleski

We traveled to thinkLA's Mobile Breakfast and spoke exclusively with Vaino Leskinen, director of mobile lab at TBWA/Digital Arts Network LA, about an unbelievably creative partnership his agency launched that serves as a case study for effective mobile advertising. Here's the story.

The partnership and campaign

If there's one thing marketers have learned over the past several years, it's that mobile is the holy grail for reaching consumers. The industry knows that the traditional tactics it previously relied on (television spots, banner ads, etc.) are not only losing effectiveness, but also can sometimes actually hurt brand image by annoying consumers. Finding creative methods to reach consumers on smartphones is the most effective way to communicate a message. The problem for many marketers is figuring out a way to accomplish this.

In 2012, TBWA Digital Arts Network was presented with the challenge of increasing foot traffic in China for its client, McDonald's. The agency understood the prevalence and impact of mobile, and naturally wanted to use it to reach consumers. But with all the mobile clutter out there, how does an advertising agency make one brand stand out?

First, the team decided that the best way to engage consumers was to gamify any brand experience. They entered into a unique partnership with Rovio to take one of the most popular mobile game apps, "Angry Birds," and use it to help drive foot traffic to McDonald's stores. After all, with 2 billion downloads, using this game to reach consumers presented a far better prospect for success than creating an original game and hoping it caught on.

They transformed the experience in the game and offered power-ups and special hidden game modes to users who entered McDonald's stores and spent time there. This generated a huge amount of buzz, as users were also given the opportunity to vote on a city to feature an actual golden arches "slingshot" outside of a McDonald's location much like the slingshot portrayed in the game ("Angry Birds" players will know what I'm talking about). The game was transformed to reflect the McDonald's brand, and a creative TV commercial kicked off the promotion. The name of the campaign? "Angry Burgers."

Vaino Leskinen speaks with iMedia at thinkLA's Mobile Breakfast about the mobile landscape and the two key game changers that have had the biggest impact since its modern inception.

Metrics and success

At the end of the day, McDonald's saw a whopping 28 percent increase in foot traffic to stores, increased french fry sales, and an amazing 280 percent lift in sales for Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. The foot traffic in stores was the key success metric that TBWA and McDonald's had its eyes on, and the "Angry Burgers" campaign delivered on it tremendously. The brand was able to naturally integrate itself into the mobile experience of consumers and give them a non-promotional incentive to visit a store and spend time there. This campaign also gave McDonald's excellent public brand perception.

This unique and innovative campaign proved that partnerships are key to navigating the mobile landscape and finding the best way to quick success. Marketers have been struggling for years to get their footing right on mobile, and they've made a lot of mistakes along the way, mostly by trying to do it all themselves. The fact is that the mobile experience is the most personal experience consumers have on a daily basis. They don't want to be outrightly advertised to on a device that feels like an extension of themselves. For brands, partnering with companies who already have an established place on mobile is the key to effective mobile marketing. TBWA and Rovio were able to show that you can weave a brand into an existing experience in a fun, helpful, and non-intrusive way. The lift that McDonald's saw stands as a testament to the power of creative mobile partnerships and campaign execution.

Vaino Leskinen speaks in depth to iMedia about the "Angry Burgers" campaign, Rovio partnership, and the successful metrics produced from this innovative and original collaboration for McDonald's in China.

Article written by Senior Media Producer David Zaleski.

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"HILVERSUM, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 23, 2014: Angry Birds…" and "NAKORNPRATHOM, THAILAND- APRIL 7, 2014: McDonalds restaurant…" images via Shutterstock.

David Zaleski is the Media Production Supervisor for iMedia Communications, Inc. and Comexposium USA. He graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Film & Television Production, specializing in editing, animation, and...

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