Dear Mr. Thompson,
For generations, McDonalds was the number one fast-food destination for families — especially families with young children. McDonalds’ menu and restaurants were kid-friendly, but more than that, McDonalds seemed to go out of its way to maintain a wholesome, family-friendly image.
While competitors like Burger King and Carl’s Jr. advertised heavily on raunchy programming and deployed sleazy ad campaigns in their quest to lure young male consumers, McDonalds kept its ad campaigns clean and seemed to work hard to ensure that its ads were placed in family-quality television programming.
It is no coincidence that during those years, McDonalds outperformed its competitors. And really, it comes down to simple math. A family of four or five (or more) is going to consume more food than one seventeen-year-old boy.
In recent years, however, McDonalds seems to have undergone an identity crisis, trying to be all things to all people. In the process, you seem to have abandoned your core market– families– and the ad strategy that helped to make McDonalds so successful for so many years. And it shows in the earnings reports.
The Wall Street Journal reports that your strategy, as communicated to investors on a recent conference call, is to “re-establish the trust of customers.”
We agree. McDonalds does need to re-establish the trust of customers. A key strategy in re-establishing that trust must be remembering the families that have been the cornerstone of the McDonald’s brand, and once again pursuing a family-friendly ad strategy.
In recent years, McDonalds advertising practices have placed the company among the worst in the nation. McDonalds’ ads are too often seen to support violent or sexually graphic programming.
This isn’t just an opinion. It is borne out by academic research. Studies from Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa State Universities have found that television viewers are less likely to recall the product being advertised if the advertisement airs within violent or sexually-explicit programming. And Walmart’s chief marketing officer has stated publicly that their media dollars generate an additional 18% return on investment if aired during “safe” programming compared to explicit programming.
Mr. Thompson, you know from McDonalds’ own track record that when you pursue family audiences and a family-friendly ad strategy, none of your competitors can touch you. As an added benefit, you will make a lasting and positive impact on the culture for this generation, and perhaps even generations to come.
President, Parents Television Council