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McDonald’s Super Bowl commercial mystery promo revealed

| January 29, 2015 | Reply
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Vehicles line up outside a McDonald's fast food restaurant franchise on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. (© 2015 Billy Suratt/BillySuratt.com)

Vehicles line up outside a McDonald’s restaurant on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. The world’s largest fast-food hamburger chain will begin “randomly accepting a new form of payment” during a 2015 promotion scheduled to be announced in a commercial airing during Super Bowl XLIX, but I’ve exclusively learned details of the gimmick days in advance of the Feb. 1 Super Bowl broadcast. (Photo © 2015 Billy Suratt/BillySuratt.com)

“This February, McDonald’s will be randomly accepting a new form of payment,” proclaims a 30-second “NFL Super Bowl XLIX Sneak Peak” teaser video published to the McDonald’s corporate YouTube channel on Jan. 25, 2015.

Super Bowl XLIX logoA McDonald’s spokesperson confirmed to Advertising Age on Jan. 26 that the fast food chain will indeed run a 60-second Super Bowl commercial in 2015, but “declined to provide much additional detail.” McDonald’s representatives also did not immediately respond to the magazine’s request for comment regarding the online ad teaser it released a week ahead of NBC’s Feb. 1 broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX.

The new form of payment McDonald’s will begin accepting following the airing of its Super Bowl commercial isn’t Apple Pay, Google Wallet, PayPal, Bitcoin or any other fancy mobile payment system or alternative currency du jour, however. In fact, it’s a payment method predating the invention of the free market, a source has confirmed three days in advance of the McDonald’s Super Bowl commercial’s scheduled airing.

What is it? Love, according to a mid-level McDonald’s representative not authorized to speak to the media regarding the company’s upcoming Super Bowl ad and subsequent promotion.

Exclusive details of “Pay with love” promotion

Beginning Feb. 2 and for a limited time, some randomly-selected patrons of McDonald’s restaurants in the United States will be given an opportunity to perform a simple act of kindness — such as wishing everyone around them a good day — in exchange for their meal, I’ve learned exclusively.

The promotion only applies to dine-in patrons, according to my source, and only those entering the restaurant lobby through one or more designated entrances at specific predetermined times. McDonald’s restaurant managers have been provided with a list of those times — such as 6:08 a.m. and 21 seconds on Monday, Feb. 2 — which are kept secret from rank-and-file crew members in order to minimize the possibility of an employee tipping off a friend or family member on how to get a free meal.

When a customer walks through an appointed door at an appointed time, store managers are supposed to wait for them to walk up to the front counter and place an order. Once that order is placed and the customer attempts to offer payment, a manager is supposed to approach them, explain the game and hand them a card specifying a specific act of kindness they can choose to perform in order to “pay for their meal with love,” a play on the “loving” part of the company’s ongoing “I’m lovin’ it” global branding campaign debuted more than a decade ago.

These lighthearted “acts of love” vary from relatively straightforward to somewhat sappy, with some containing a humorous element some customers might find slightly embarrassing. Store managers have also been given suggestions on how to deal with customers upset because they weren’t chosen to play the game, my source said.

The number of free meals each store will potentially give away varies from day to day during the promotion, my source said, with the Feb. 2 day-after-Super-Bowl kickoff being one of the days patrons will have the most chances of winning.

It’s unclear whether these daily numbers are set in stone nationally or might vary from store to store, but it would make sense for high-volume restaurants to give patrons more chances to play and win than lower-volume stores.

McDonald’s 2014 performance: executives not “lovin’ it”

McDonald’s remains the world’s largest restaurant chain measured by sales, but those sales have stagnated domestically and company revenue took a hit in 2014 due to a combination of ever-increasing competition, consumers’ changing tastes and, some argue, managerial missteps.

The Oak Brook, Illinois-based fast food giant announced yesterday that Brit Steve Easterbrook, currently serving as its senior executive vice president and chief brand officer, will become chief executive following the March 1 retirement of embattled current President and CEO Don Thompson.

McDonald’s hired Thompson as an electrical engineer in 1990. He moved into operations a few years later and rapidly ascended the corporate ladder, due in part to possessing a “relatively rare mix of social prowess and sophisticated mathematical skills,” people who know Thompson told Reuters in 2012. Despite those skills, Thompson has had a rocky tenure as McDonald’s CEO — the first African-American to head the corporation — since assuming the position on July 1, 2012.

In addition to the CEO shakeup, McDonald’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Pete Bensen will transition to the newly-created position of chief administrative officer, the company said in a news release, while current Senior Vice President and Corporate Comptroller Kevin Ozan will succeed Bensen as senior EVP and CFO.

While McDonald’s may be letting some customers pay with “love” for the next month or so, come March 1 we can be certain its focus will once again be squarely on dollar signs.

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I'm a Mid-South photojournalist, Kentucky writer and digital media consultant (or eNinja™). Circle me on Google Plus at Plus.BillySuratt.com, follow me on Twitter at @surattb and Instagram me at @BillySuratt. Got a news tip or suggestion about some journalism that needs committed? Email blog@billysuratt.com (discretion is always guaranteed).