McDonald’s Quirky Dollar Menunaire Gets Spruced Up for Another Year

Paul “The Dollar Menunaire” is back for another year, and this time the animated McDonald’s spokescharacter has a little more class. Following a successful ’07 run during which the streetwise frugal foodie inspired everything from a Yahoo Answers survey to a MySpace rapper, interactive components of the restaurant chain’s Dollar Menu campaign have been revamped for 2008.

“It’s been very effective, and oddly enough, McDonald’s has gotten a lot for a little in this campaign…. It’s become a viral campaign,” said Kevin Flatt, executive creative director at Tribal DDB Worldwide, the agency behind the digital effort.

When The Dollar Menunaire microsite first hit the Web, Paul could be found in his “parents’ casa,” sitting on an inflatable chair with his feet perched on the cardboard box it came in, or as Paul called it, “the ottoman.” The site, supported by online banners, video pre-rolls, in-game units and traditional media advertising, let users explore items in the character’s room and learn how they reflect his cheap-living lifestyle.

Eating food from McDonald’s Dollar Menu is a major component of that lifestyle. “You totally get to eat like a champ for a buck,” noted the character in the older site. “It sounds a little bit cheesy, me sellin’ the Dollar Menu and all, but McDonald’s is paying me so you can’t really blame a guy,” he admitted.

“Paul is very self-aware that he’s participating in this advertising,” said Flatt, noting a key to attracting the campaign’s 18-34 year old target audience is “being able to speak with them and not down to them.”

The new site has Paul teaching a Dollar Menunaire intro class called “Rich Life 101,” boasting his credentials as “someone who has mastered the art of tasting the rich life on a minimal budget.” Much of his script has been altered for the new version of the site, said Flatt. A filmstrip style slideshow featuring various items from the fast food chain is also new. Clicking to the $1 fountain drink, Professor Paul notes it will “quest your thirst for knowledge… or just your thirst.”

The campaign’s sensibility is like a cross between Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” and Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book,” but don’t expect Paul or his scrimping buddies to explain the best ways to hitchhike or score dope. Instead, new banner ads suggest that a good way to run errands without owning a car is to take a car dealer’s wheels out for a test spin.

Roadblock ads currently placed on IGN.com declare, “The Dollar Menunaire knows the value of a shortcut.” As part of the campaign, McDonald’s provides free game guides and also offers $1 discounts on movie tickets purchased through Fandango’s site. Ads are also running alongside Webisodes of Broadband Enterprises’ goofy fantasy sports-themed show, “The Fantastic Two,” which also features McDonald’s product placements.

“Paul tones,” a.k.a. ringtones are part of the package, too. “Hey, um, can you hear me? I’m in your pocket,” says Paul in one of the free downloads.

According to Flatt, the new series of ads is targeted to young adults on sports, gaming and entertainment sites such as CBSSports.com, college sports site CSTV.com and celebrity gossip site TMZ.com. OMD, the media agency for the campaign, is considering additional online music and entertainment media buys, Flatt added. Print, TV, radio and 1-800-Free411 directory service ads are also part of the mix.

In addition to sales of Dollar Menu items, McDonald’s is measuring campaign results based on the amount of time users engage with the site, Flatt said.

Some results are out of the advertiser’s control, though. A recent survey on Yahoo Answers asked users, “Are you a dollar menunaire?” Several respondents responded positively, while others expressed varying degrees of negativity. “Nope, i always go for happy meals,” wrote one user. Another wasn’t a fan, stating, “i hate macdons man!”

“Bezzie Tha Dollar Menunaire” evidently is especially fond of the campaign, if the rapper’s moniker is any indication. But as a family-friendly establishment, McDonald’s may not be too fond of the lyrics in his tunes such as “Crank Dat Mickey D.”

The campaign has “taken on a bit of a life on its own; that’s usually a great sign for brand,” said Flatt, noting the agency and McDonald’s do want to make sure the brand is well represented. Overall, “The young adults are liking [the campaign], or should I say, they’re lovin’ it,” he joked, alluding to McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” tagline.

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