Monday, December 8, 2008

Adventures in Awful Advertising: The "Nuggnuts" Ad Campaign

In December 1997, I earned a Bachelor's Degree in marketing from San Diego State University. Immediately after college, I spent seven weeks working in sales for a software company. Truth be told, after two days, I knew that sales weren't for me and all the real advertising jobs were in San Francisco, Chicago and New York. So, it's time to see if 10 years have dulled the skills that I once applied. For 48 hours. 10 years ago.

Synopsis: Last month, McDonald's embarked on an odd ad blitz centered on their ubiquitous Chicken McNuggets product. 2008 marks the 25th anniversary of their original release and to celebrate, McDonald's is creating a new word. And, a lazy Facebook page. Oh, and a tagline that may or may not have been lifted from Mad Men.

Target Audience: This marks the first time I can remember McDonald's actively pushing Chicken McNuggets towards the 18-34 demographic. Back in 1983, McNuggets were targeted towards kids and their Chevrolet Caprice-driving parents. A generation later, we're watching an attempt to play into those sepia-toned adolescent memories of fried foods and barbecue sauce. "Remember McNuggets? They're still here and they're STILL fun!"

Three Reasons Why it Won't Work: (1) "Nuggnuts" is just a stupid, stupid word. Are you telling me that not ONE participant from the dozens of McDonald's-commissioned "Nuggnuts" focus groups said, "It kinda sounds like numbnuts"? I'm reminded of that Simpsons episode where Homer's running through potential schoolyard insults for his as-yet unborn and unnamed son ("…cart, dart, eee-art…Nope, can't see any problem with that!").

(2) No one has figured out the internet. Put it this way…when the origins of your ad campaign are tied to a 45-second YouTube phenomenon, it might be time to admit you're out of ideas. Nearly two million page views of two rapping tools is simply not indicative of burgeoning brand loyalty. Who makes up the audience? How many of them already eat at McDonald's? How many don't? What's their household income? Do they have kids? Are they kids? More than a decade since the internet explosion, we still don't know with any degree of certainty who's out there. Well, besides "everyone".

(3) Too many mixed messages. So, there's this fast food company out there that raked in $23 billion in worldwide revenues last year. Its mascot once famously scored 96% recognition with grade-school aged kids (second behind Santa Claus). Yet, McDonald's is positioning Chicken McNuggets as part of an ersatz underground campaign dressed up and dumbed down as some sort of "movement"? All that's missing are the creepy George Orwellian black shirts with a single cryptic message scrawled across the front for all of us to wear. But, apparently they'll be available on December 31. Of course.


Anonymous said...

I pretty much agree with everything you say here. McDonald's should just stick to French fries, funny tasting meat patties and hot apple pies.

Eric said...

You do know that "Nug nuts" (irrational second G aside" is "stun gun" backwards?