McDonald’s Aims to Boost New Contest with Online Effort

In the wake of its “Monopoly” game scandal, McDonald’s Corp. is debuting a new game designed to boost its reputation, and using the Internet to get the word out.

Beginning Thursday and continuing until Monday, the McDonald’s contest will award five $1 million prizes and 50 $100,000 cash prizes to lucky visitors to any of its restaurants (or drive-thru windows).

The effort is being promoted on the front page of Yahoo with rich media ads designed by agency of record TribalDDB, a unit of Omnicom’s DDBWorldwide. (Tribal took over the account following a review this spring; previously, the agency had done occasional international work for the company.)

“We want a second chance to see you smile,” reads the ads’ copy. “Stop by Thursday, August 30, through Monday, September 3, for a chance to win … Just visit any McDonald’s restaurant.”

“It’s the first time that McDonald’s has done any online advertising of this type,” said company spokesperson Lori Miller.

However, it’s not the company’s first effort at Internet marketing. Earlier, during this year’s “Monopoly” game, the company used its Web site to spread awareness of the contest and drive traffic to its stores.

And last year in Australia, the regional TribalDDB office devised a TV campaign to drive traffic to an episodic, McDonald’s-sponsored Web site (where Mickey D’s could grab opt-in addresses), and, in January, unveiled an online discount promotion.

The newest effort — and the reference to a “second chance” — comes amid the Chicago-based company’s promises to make good on the more than $10 million in cash prizes estimated to have been claimed fraudulently over the past several years.

After months of working with the fast food giant, the Federal Bureau of Investigations last week arrested an employee of McDonald’s promotions firm Simon Marketing in connection with rigging the contest.

No McDonald’s employees were named in the crime, but at least one class action suit has been filed against the fast food giant by consumers — alleging that the company’s decision to work with the FBI and not pull the plug on the contest wrongfully caused consumers to spend money on a sweepstakes they couldn’t win.

In addition to the media buy, the McDonald’s Web site now features a new area where participants can track the winners globally, almost as the prizes are awarded — also an effort to boost awareness and goodwill around the new giveaway.

“We knew there would be a lot of interest with regard to … winners being identified during a five-day period,” Miller said. “So the best way to have that information immediately accessible to not only the public, but also the media, was to go ahead and employ the Web site do to so.”

“Between Thursday, August 30, and Monday, September 3, you might notice something different at McDonald’s,” reads the site’s copy. “It’s kind of like a do-over. You’ll have a second chance to win instantly, and win big.”

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