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'McRib Is Back' Promotion Turns Into a Twitter Roast

  |  November 5, 2010   |  Comments

McDonald's 'Promoted Trend' buy for McRib sandwich reportedly cost $80,000, while creating mainly negative comments.

McDonald's purchased Twitter's Promoted Trend for Friday to push its "McRib" sandwich, which has been momentarily reintroduced to its menu. According to industry sources, an all-day Promoted Trend purchase costs around $80,000.

mcdonaldsIs the Oak Brook, IL-based quick-serve mega-chain getting a good bang for its buck? The national Promoted Trend ad points to a Twitter search result page for the phrase "McRib is back," and tweets and re-tweets have poured in today at the rate of about nine per minute.

But they haven't all been pleasant-minded, underscoring the inherent risks associated with social media marketing. ClickZ eye-balled tweets appearing on the ad's landing page over the course of five hours and concluded that while there was some positive buzz, a majority of the comments were negative in sentiment.

Here's a sample of the re-tweets appearing before 2:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time:

"McRib is back and It's as bad as you remember."

"#mcrib McRib is back. can someone get me health insurance!"

"i dont know what im more excited about...being in BC, or McRib is back ..."

"McRib is back but the best thing is that all the rats have disappeared in your neighborhood glad Mcdonald's believes in pest contro"

"That's it. I'm outta here. I love the McRib."

"I like how 90% of the tweets related to the promoted "McRib is back" are making fun of it"

Rick Wion, social media director at McDonald's, spoke with ClickZ late Friday afternoon and contended that anecdotal evidence - even observed at various points during the day - isn't adequate to judge the effort more negative than positive. He asserted sentiment data from the one-day social campaign will bear healthy results.

"We are talking about thousands and thousands of tweets throughout the day," he said. "Leading up to this [effort], the sentiment that we've been tracking through our social media tracking tools has been overwhelmingly positive."

Wion also suggested that many demeaning or sarcastic comments about the McRib product stem from a misconception some people have about the meat in the sandwich. "What I can tell you is that it is a quality sandwich," he said. "It is U.S.D.A. grade A pork - pork loin and pork shoulder chopped and made into a patty. The fact that it is shaped like ribs probably throws some people off. Often there are some critics who jump on that."

Carri Bugbee, president of Big Deal PR and a social media marketing instructor at Portland State University, shared a different view than Wion about the comments she had seen during the ad campaign.

"What I would worry about most if I were McDonald's is that the vast majority of the tweets are nasty or snarky," she said. "I would definitely like to see the sentiment analysis at the end of the day. I am not a huge believer in machine sentiment analysis because it's still kind of voodoo. But this case will be an easy one. You just have to do a quick look-see at the tweets."

Bugbee pointed out that driving people to an online video contest, dubbed "Legends of the McRib," and creating overall engagement were part of the campaign. Still, she questioned whether the ad buy was well-placed.

"I don't know if the folks on Twitter are really their target audience," Bugbee said. "I don’t know who the target audience is for the McRib. But I am going to guess it's probably younger and less affluent, and that's not really where Twitter is probably going to work [as a marketing channel]."

Bugbee runs social media campaigns for e-tail companies and personal branding for Silicon Valley executives. She said that she's looked into buying Promoted Trends for clients, but balked at the lack of targeting available.

"They give you zero information for what [the ad] might do for you," Bugbee said. "I think big brands can afford to throw some money at something, experiment and see how it works out. But I don't know if brands that need accountability would want to do it."

Update: This story has been expanded to include comments from McDonald's.


Christopher Heine

Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.

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