Business

Anything goes in digital advertising, even McDonald's four-hour McWrap video

TORONTO — In the ever-changing landscape of advertising, anything goes — even a seemingly never-ending video of a breakfast sandwich being prepared.

Earlier this week McDonald's posted a four-hour video on YouTube featuring continuous loops of bacon frying, tomatoes being sliced, lettuce drying and other types of food preparation — all designed to draw eyeballs to its new "Zesty BLT More-Ning McWrap."

The fast food giant doesn't really expect consumers to watch all four hours of the content, but it does hope you'll do a double-take and possibly have a good laugh.

With people spending more time online and being inundated with all types of content, McDonald's says it's focusing more of its marketing efforts on developing unconventional digital advertisements that will resonate with the right target — in this case, millennials.

"What we want to do with the video is play with it on social (media)," says McDonald's senior advertising manager Melanie Courtois. She explains that the four-hour McWrap video features "a few fun facts throughout," which consumers can identify on Facebook and Twitter contests in exchange for gift certificates.

"That's how we're trying to leverage that four hours," says Courtois, who adds the footage for the video was created with images already filmed for one its 30-second TV ads.

Liz Dunn, chief executive at brand strategy consultant Talmage Advisors in New York City, says that in today's media landscape, most retailers, brands and restaurants are having a very difficult time reaching consumers.

That means companies need to try altogether different advertising ploys to influence consumers' purchasing behaviour in ways that reflect how news and information is increasingly being transmitted and shared via social media.

"Consumers are very easily distracted. They're constantly on their phones and really pretty numb to traditional marketing efforts, so it just becomes background noise," says Dunn.

"So I think a lot of brands are trying to rise above the fray and capture consumers' attention with more urgent calls to action or some sort of event, or something that really breaks through the rest of the noise and creates a reason to purchase and a reason to act."

George Minakakis, chief executive at Toronto-based change management consultancy Inception Retail Group Inc., says the McDonald's McWrap video in part plays into a popular digital marketing strategy known as "unboxing."

"It's about building the anticipation of something," he says. "So it's building toward the anticipation of having that great piece of food, or if you're unboxing something from Apple and you can't wait to get your hands on your iPad."

Largely, though, he believes the video is mainly "a good marketing gimmick" trying to capture the attention of consumers under the age of 35 who on average spend about 27 hours a week online.

"They have to do this because 27 hours of being online takes 27 hours away from TV and radio," Minakakis says.

"It's an interesting approach. They're kind of telling the social media followers and the world, 'Hey look at what we did!'"

— Follow @DaveHTO on Twitter.