Published on enero 11th, 2010 | by GAby Menta0
McD’s Augmented Reality vs. the Real In-Store World.
If you’ve seen it in a theater,you may know by now that James Cameron’s “Avatar” is the most innovative product to hit American movie screens since D. W. Griffith said, “Hey, maybe some close-ups would make the Civil War more interesting.”
Whatever you may think of the story, if you’re like most audience members, you’re going to be blown away by computer-generated animation that’s at once totally lifelike and completely unlike life as we’ve ever seen it in the movies.
That’s why I was so anxious to get to my local McDonald’s and order up a Big Mac: because the quick-service chain went to great lengths to ballyhoo an elaborate tie-in with the movie’s Dec. 18 launch, promising everything from online game experiences (including some unlocked by access codes from Avatar packaging) to my particular interest: a set of augmented-reality “Avatar Thrill Cards” available on Big Mac packages that, held up to a computer camera, offered interactive visits to the movie’s planet Pandora.
The Internet reality may be augmented, but the commercial reality is that among the several McD stores near my office and home, I couldn’t find one that offered the Thrill Cards in the first five days after the movie opened.
And I tried. I usually permit myself one Big Mac a month, just so I can look my bathroom scale in the eye. But I broke my rule and ate four in the days following the Avatar debut, and in each case I got the standard cardboard clamshell packaging for my sandwich.
The first time it happened, on Dec. 18–Launch Day, the day with presumably the biggest buzz– I took my cardless sandwich, turned and saw a large in-store standup explaining how the Thrill Cards could be obtained with a Big Mac purchase. And I committed the unthinkable crime at a lunch-hour fast food joint: I cut in line and specified to the person behind the counter that I was looking for the movie tie-in offer.
She looked at me as if, like the characters in the movie, I was blue, spotted and pretty much a cartoon. Then she called over her shoulder to a manager, asking if she knew anything about a Big Mac “Avatar” card.
“Yeah, here they are,” the manager said, pointing to a display of branded gift cards by the register. “You have to buy them.”
When I explained that no, what I was referring to was a special Web-related promotion that you held up in front of a camera and… no?
Bottom line, nobody behind the counter at that store k new anything about the details of a promotion that was being advertised about 10 feet from their registers. And this is a store that I know oak Brook IL-based McDonald’s corporate uses to train managers and assistants. And when I went back the next day, assuming that the packaging had been sitting on pallets in the storeroom waiting to be packed out, I was met with the same uncomprehending looks.
My experiences at the other two stores in my neighborhood were the same. What cards?
It’s very likely that by this time, the promotion has trickled through to the salespeople at those outlets, and they’re giving out Thrill Cards right and left. But in a sense, that doesn’t matter. In those important first days of “Avatar” buzz, a McDonald’s campaign that the company termed ground-breaking fell down at the point of sale, for me and for anyone else who came in asking about it.
It’s what they used to call in telecom the “last-mile” problem. You can get your network humming, make sure your capacities and switching are optimized for all the traffic you can bear. But if that connection from the house to the curb is old or fails, your customers are going to be left disappointed and perhaps angry.
As more companies reach for gee-whiz technology like augmented reality (and yes, I know it’s got overtones of Shiny Thing of the Month, but it’s new for now, and thus good enough for buzz), they shouldn’t forget that crucial final stage in activating the promotion: the last mile, or in this case that 16 inches of counter between the server and the customer.
Postscript: sifting through e-mail that got overlooked in the pre-Christmas chaos, I found a copy of this release from Total Immersion, the company that designed and handles the tech execution of the “Avatar” Thrill Card campaign. They may indeed have printed ‘hundreds of millions of AR cards on restaurant packages around the world.” But in this corner of the galaxy, I wasn’t able to find them when I wanted them.
Here’s hoping McDonald’s tries something equally but better implemented cool in April 2010. That’s about when I’m due for my next Big Mac.
BY THE WAY: If you’re an interactive agency with a 2009 Internet campaign you want to highlight, or a brand that thinks you did something digital of great and sales-productive note last year, be sure to submit that campaign for judging in our 2010 Interactive Marketing Awards.
We’ll be taking entries in a dozen categories, in every channel from the Web and mobile to e-mail and social networks and in tactics ranging from microsites to interactive Web games. We’ll also be handing out an award for overall best interactive campaign, and another for the best integrated promotion. (Are you listening, McDonald’s? Execution counts.)