Locally targeted McDonald’s TV ads turning heads

New York City might only be 120 miles away from Albany, but lifestyle-wise it’s a lot further. Often we Upstaters are saddled with “regional” advertising campaigns directed toward New Yorkers (the city dwellers, not the state residents). I frequently see billboards or TV commercials referencing terms like “The Big Apple” and alluding to New York sports teams (of which many Albany residents are fans, to be fair).

Regional advertising is nothing new, but often campaigns chunk up the country into six or seven large segments and so the ads end up being somewhat general. Major metropolitan areas might get a specific campaign, but for those of us who live in small to medium-sized cities it’s rare to see national brands adapt their campaigns.

Apparently McDonald’s is changing that. I haven’t seen it yet, but according to one of my local Facebook pals there’s a TV spot floating around that’s very specific to the Albany area:

McDonalds Facebook Regional TV ad

From Jen’s comment, this ad is extremely specific to the Capital Region of New York State and only the 800,000 or so people who live here could make any sense of those references. (Yes, our interstate jumps from Exit 2 to Exit 4 and no one seems to know why Exit 3 is missing. And Koscuiszko is a Polish dude who fought in the Revolutionary War and a bridge is named after him.)

Does this represent a new direction for national brands? Based on the Facebook discussion above, it’s certainly getting people’s attention. On one hand, creating these hyperlocal “micro-campaigns” is a way to make consumers from smaller markets like Albany feel as though they’re getting some actual attention from a big brand (which doesn’t happen too often. You should see the group that’s been trying for years to get a Trader Joe’s in the area). It can make it seem like larger “corporate” brands are reaching out to local communities — though the major danger here is appearing disingenuous.

Alternatively, it can make it harder for these brands to unite customers around a shared experience or campaign. Think about the Super Bowl. So much of the discussion and interaction with those brands comes from everyone across the country talking about which ads they liked and didn’t like the next day. Or think of nationwide ad campaigns that have become cultural touchstones (like the Aflac Duck). That shared sense of connection to the brand would be lost if the ad was localized.

Have you seen a large national brand localizing its campaigns so specifically? Did it work or backfire? What do you think are the pros and cons of this type of strategy?

Update:

Watch the video here:

Here’s a link to a news story with some background on the agency that produced the spots and how they were shot.

23 thoughts on “Locally targeted McDonald’s TV ads turning heads

  1. I’ve seen this commercial, they also say they’ve developed a special blend just for this area that’s free at McDonald’s until the end of the month. I wonder if all of the local special blends across the country are really just the same blend with a different name though.

    • That came up in the Facebook discussion too… I guess if you listen closely to the commercial it does state that it’s the same coffee brewed at all McDonald’s.

      • In New England McDonald’s they brew Newman’s Own Organics, which is a partnership coffee with Green Mountain Coffee. I’m not sure if that is the blend they are talking about – but it’s served north of Albany and up.

        • From what I read in an article about this was that only three commercials were made. Two targeted for New England, one for Albany.

  2. great blog entry! seems like it is an effective campaign, what with its one-two punch of “wait, is that an Albany reference in a high-production quality commercial??” immediately followed by the promise of free coffee — they had me at Koscuiszko!

    oh, and it was on during jeopardy tonight if you want to try and catch it…

  3. I haven’t seen it yet – but I’d like to! Unfortunately, I’m not in the area. Is there any chance someone could put it up on youtube?

    • I haven’t been able to find it on YouTube yet, but if anyone comes across it, please send me a link!

      Another interesting tidbit that came out of further Facebook discussion: apparently the commercial also announces that it’s offering a free “special” blend of Newman’s Own coffee for our region through the end of the month, though if you listen closely the ad states that it’s really the same brew that’s served at every McDonald’s.

  4. I didn’t find the Albany regional ad on YouTube but here’s a link to a New England version. . .fishing dock, thick accents and all. The Upstate version isn’t a recognizable location. I have seen the Albany ad numerous times during the 1st hour of the Today show. I think it started early last week.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFbxpWFs2jA

    • Amy, thanks for sharing! I didn’t catch a disclaimer or anything in that ad claiming that the coffee blend was actually not region-specific. Wondering how many of these campaigns McDonald’s is doing across the country. My guess? They’re probably focusing in on regions where they think they can pull market share from other coffee places (Northeast is a Dunkin’ Donuts stronghold, e.g.).

    • Interesting though, that New England version is much less specific than what has been playing in the Albany market. The creative is being dictated by the size of the DMA and even more so proximity to other DMAs. Albany has little to no overlap as a television market, but Boston, Providence, Hartford-New Haven all are faced with some degree of overlapping signals. Personally I think McDonalds is either playing that a little to safe or they are testing out if something as specific as what they are doing in Albany makes a difference vs a more generic spot for New England.

      • You make a good point on the specificity of the Albany ad vs. New England’s. Your test-market hypothesis is an interesting one. So far I still haven’t heard of other markets beyond the Northeast seeing localized McDonald’s ads, so I wonder if it really is a test-case scenario, or if they’re just really focusing on the Northeast to try and grab coffee market share.

  5. Amy,

    There’s no exit 3 on the northway because funding to build it was cancelled a long time ago. It was supposed to be I-687, a connection from the I90 exit 5A area to the Northway and then beyond to the airport. There has been talk of building one again, perhaps from Route 85…but it usually gets a cold reception because of the impact on the neighborhoods along the way.

    https://www.nysdot.gov/regional-offices/region1/projects/i87exit3

    http://www.capitalhighways.8m.com/highways/687i/

    As for the TV ad…it is very annoying….a feeling of “National company tries too hard to sound like a local”.

    • Thanks for the history lesson on the Northway!

      I’ve heard mixed reactions on the ad and many people echoed your sentiment on “trying too hard.” I guess my question is, then, is it ever appropriate for a national brand to try and take a local tack in marketing and advertising? Or do you feel that once they’ve gotten big enough to be a national brand that they should never localize ad campaigns?

  6. Amy,

    We were just discussing it at lunch today. It’s interesting that they went to that much trouble to mirco target our region. I was curious as to who created them. Do you know?

    This area has often been used as a test market – take into account the number of chain oriented restaurants and stores.

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  8. McD’s also has an add targetted at New Englanders. They use the term “NewYorkachusetts” meaning “Connecticut”. Can’t actually find people who use that term …. but the rest is right on …

    As for Kosciusko … we have that streets by that name in several many Boston Suburbs and there’s a statue of him in DC … only we pronounce it Ka-schoo-sko, not Koski-us-ko.,

  9. They have this SAME commercial in New England (well, the same people anyway) but they talk about New England stuff in it, and another with 2 guys who make the aforementioned “Newyorkachusetts” quote.

  10. I’m in Albany visiting for the night and I just saw this commercial. I am from here but now live in Brooklyn. I was sooo confused about the commercial that I had to google it and this is the blog I found. I am fully aware of the missing Exit 3 but Kosciuszko is my J train stop in Brooklyn and the whole Greenwich/Lark Street comment… I couldn’t determine if they were talking about Albany or NYC in the commercial! lol. (mainly cos I was unaware that Kosciuszko was a bridge name here). Good commercial… even though McDonalds coffee is probably the most disgusting coffee I’ve ever tasted!

    Cheers!

  11. New Englander, you’ve got the right pronunciation. This Kosciuszko (Thaddeus — there are others, some of which are pronounced as in the ad) was a Polish engineer who planned the Battle of Saratoga, among other Revolutionary War tasks, and designed the plans for West Point. McDonald’s is still airing this ad — saw it during “The Big Bang Theory” this week — and is still giving the wrong pronunciation. I sent them a “Contact Us” about it. What are the odds I’ll get a reply? LOL!