Bob Garfield

How "Angry Birds" ignited sales at McDonald's

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What do "Angry Birds" and a fast food chain have in common? Here's how one creative campaign was able to send revenue through the roof.

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.