McDonald’s Testing ethnic tastes

With demographic evidence showing Canada's urban areas will become more cosmopolitan than ever, it is to be expected companies with foresight are making plans now.One such firm is McDonald's Restaurants of Canada, which ran two short, important test promotions before Christmas...

With demographic evidence showing Canada’s urban areas will become more cosmopolitan than ever, it is to be expected companies with foresight are making plans now.

One such firm is McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada, which ran two short, important test promotions before Christmas in Toronto’s large and lucrative ethnic market.

The first test used McDonald’s’ usual advertising medium – tv – in a November-long promotional campaign to measure Cantonese-speaking viewers’ preference for McRib or McChicken Club sandwiches.

This ‘McSweepstakes’ promotion allowed viewers of Cantonese programming on Channel 47, Toronto’s multilingual tv channel, to call a toll-free number to vote for their favorite sandwich, as well as the chance to win prizes.

Malcolm Dunlop, national language sales manager for Channel 47, says response to the campaign has been ‘tremendous.’

The second test, from Nov. 13 to Dec. 11, used a medium not usually associated with the fast food giant – print – and specialist print at that.

The $10,000 test ran two-for-one coupon ads in five Toronto-based foreign-language newspapers every other week for three weeks.

On offer were pizza, Big Macs and McChicken sandwiches at 39 Toronto outlets.

The papers, the five largest in Canada in their language, were Corriere Canadese (Italian), Stadium (Portuguese), Hellenic Canadian Chronicles (Greek), Sing Tao, (Chinese) and El Popular (Spanish.)

Manuel Canales, general manager at Ethnic Media Sales, the Toronto media buying firm which worked with the newspapers and McDonald’s, says talks about the print test began last July but nothing was closed until November.

And Canales says once the deal was confirmed there was a lot of ‘babysitting’ to do – translations, deadlines and other production matters – with the newspapers involved.

Peter Beresford, vice-president and national director of marketing at McDonald’s, says there is nothing exceptional about the print test promotion, noting his company runs tests all the time.

Beresford strenuously denies the newspaper test is the result of internal pressure from McDonald’s franchisees seeking ways to capture a larger share of the ethnic market.

However, one observer familiar with the situation who wishes to remain anonymous, says it is his understanding that is the case.

Ken Solmon, vice-president, director, consumer insights and strategic planning at Toronto ad agency Young & Rubicam, welcomes McDonald’s’ newspaper test, saying attention to the ethnic market in Canada is long overdue.

Solmon, who notes y&r ran a successful foreign-language billboard campaign for Kodak in Toronto two or three years ago, suggests the print test is about comfort and respect for non-English speaking customers.

Practical side

Although Solmon says there is a practical side to the test, (gathering customer information), he adds the ‘bulk’ of what McDonald’s is doing is building a stronger relationship with consumers.

Also, he says the Chinese tv toll-free phone campaign is not so much about viewers’ preference for one sandwich over another, but about numbers: whether certain programs will work for McDonald’s advertising.

Canales says the results of the newspaper test will not be available until Jan. 24.

And Beresford says McDonald’s does not make public what it discovers from its testing.

Canales says he has heard the response from the Chinese community to the ads has been good.

Marilyn Barefoot , McDonald’s’ account director at Vickers & Benson Advertising in Toronto, which has the restaurant chain’s Ontario account, says there are a couple of items which will emerge from the print test.

Barefoot says McDonald’s will not get ‘clean data’ from it, but will get ‘trending’ at least, as well as finding out the preferred products of the selected ethnic groups.

Canales says the planning for the test was extensive.

He says used in the test were readily available postal codes and census maps among other demographic aids, although the choice of newspapers was a little problematic because circulation information about them was scarce.

The McDonald’s national ad account is held by Cossette Communication-Marketing in Toronto.

National advertising spending is reckoned at $30 million a year.