McDonald’s big bean blitz

McDonald's isn't normally known for its coffee. It was hoping to change that with a blitz featuring free morning java.

McDonald’s isn’t normally known for its coffee. It was hoping to change that with a blitz featuring free morning java.

The campaign kicked off on April 13 with national TV, OOH, radio and online ads teasing the giveaway, which began April 20 and ran until May 3. Developed by Cossette Toronto, the national effort aimed to re-engage people with McDonald’s premium roast brand – now produced using a new brewing process.

‘The line, ‘Let’s start fresh,’ was an apt way to encourage consumers to take a second look and try it,’ explains David Daga, VP group convergent CD at Cossette Toronto.

Cossette’s regional offices developed local stunts. Prime Marketing worked with The Lab Foundation in Montreal to organize skywriting promoting the initiative. Cossette Toronto scattered tall, steaming cups of McDonald’s coffee around the city, and erected a superboard featuring a giant, 3D steaming cup of joe.

In Vancouver, Cossette West ran ads in commuter daily Metro, and created OOH executions including a streetlight dressed up like a coffee carafe pouring its contents into a cup. A fake sleep-walking stunt in Edmonton had actors dressed in PJs carrying teddy bears.

‘Free is the ultimate thing that’s going to drive people to change their routine, so we just had to break through the clutter a little bit more,’ explains Rob Sweetman, CD at Cossette West.

We asked Kristian Manchester, associate CD at Montreal-based Sid Lee and Lawrie Ferguson, SVP marketing at Vancouver-based Coast Capital Savings, to weigh in on whether the McDonald’s coffee campaign hit the spot.


Ferguson: The positioning line, ‘Let’s start fresh,’ spoke clearly and directly to the re-engagement goal and the free coffee was a great call to action. I’m somewhat sceptical that consumers would change their habits and behaviours over a more sustained period as a result of stopping in for a freebie coffee. In terms of timing, the campaign hit the ground at the perfect moment. With the uncertain economy, consumers continue to question every cent they spend and cut where they can – especially when it comes to the ‘perks’ such as a morning Starbucks.

Manchester: I like some of the work in this campaign. The bean counter transit shelter coming out of Vancouver is my favourite. I just wish more of the creative was up to this level. Overall I find the work to be inconsistent in delivering the ‘Let’s start fresh’ strategy, and wish there was more of a big idea driving the campaign.


Ferguson: I enjoyed the regional executions – certainly creative and eye catching. The Vancouver-based work was particularly strong, with the giant coffee pot on the light standard, the coffee stain print ad and the TSA with coffee beans that depleted as the promotion advanced. This creative delivered on intrusiveness, and I’m sure the light standard stunt and TSA garnered some free PR. The work done in Edmonton and Montreal certainly gets innovation points, especially the Montreal skywriting stunt. It did a wonderful job in tying together elements of vintage and viral marketing. However, I’m not certain about their effectiveness in terms of intrusiveness.

Manchester: There are some great executions from Vancouver. Again, the bean counter is by far the best, nailing fresh and creating a sense of urgency about the limited-time free coffee offer. In the cash-strapped world we’re living in it also feels very timely. The coffee pot lamppost is striking enough to hold its own and create some buzz, but then the executions start to get a little messy. There was a valiant effort put into the skywriting viral from Montreal, but this feels disconnected from the rest of the creative.

When you’ve got a brand like McDonald’s and this many media dollars, I think it would have been a good idea to put on a pot of coffee and fight a little harder for the creative.


Ferguson: The mass campaign elements were clear, consistent and integrated. The emphasis on ‘free’ delivered a strong call to action, which likely translated into trial. The secondary copy around the product benefits, such as premium roast, Arabica beans and full bodied flavour – the key reasons that people would continue to buy the coffee after the trial period – were rather rushed.

Manchester: This is probably the weakest area. While some of the OOH is somewhat innovative, like the steam from the billboards, the TV and radio spread the same joke too thin. The online component with the user-generated mug shots has a nice angle but is disconnected with the rest.

The creds:

advertiser: McDonald’s Canada

agency: Cossette


CDs: David Daga, Matthew Litzinger

copywriter: Sean Atkinson

AD: Shawn James


CDs: Rob Sweetman, Bryan Collins

copywriters: Michael Milardo, Brent Wheeler

AD: Eric Arnold


project manager: Pierre-Mathieu Roy, Prime Marketing

creative strategists/producers: Patrice LaCroix, Pascal Beauchesne, Lab Foundation