QSR pros talk about life in the fast-food lane

After picking the brains of the leaders of the top promotional agencies creators of quick-service restaurant (QSR) campaigns for such companies as McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell one fact becomes clear: kids entertainment is increasingly the focal point of fast-food...
May 1, 1997

After picking the brains of the leaders of the top promotional agencies creators of quick-service restaurant (QSR) campaigns for such companies as McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell one fact becomes clear: kids entertainment is increasingly the focal point of fast-food marketing campaigns. Today’s complex multipartner/multibrand promotions are expanding, and that’s not all these QSR experts have got cooking.

1. What are your criteria for choosing a property?

Tom Baer, vice president, director of entertainment marketing, Frankel & Company, Chicago, Illinois: ‘It varies with every client we have. You go over what their marketing objectives are, their budgets, and what they’ve done in the past. Then you look at relationships they might already have. And all of those affect the criteria for choosing a property. Certain clients only want ‘big major event property type’ of tie-ins and for other clients, very small projects make sense.’

Katie Chin, vice president, worldwide entertainment and licensing, Alcone Marketing Group, Los Angeles, California: ‘The right property should fit and complement a company’s brand positioning, and appeal to the demographic target or targets. The property should be leveragable across a variety of mediums [and] have marketing support and licensor programming activity.’

Jay Slater, senior vice president, Simon Marketing, Los Angeles, California: ‘We look at motion-picture properties using the following [criteria]: studio, talent, director, script, usable icons could we design a toy or other premium? and whether it is appropriate for kids. With kids TV properties, we look for the hottest shows, reviewing the ratings. Television properties are appealing, as they produce fewer issues surrounding break dates, and it’s easier to find icons to use for premiums. We look at the list of current or potential licensees also using the property in noncompeting industries, so that we can take advantage of the publicity and promotion they generate.’

Tom Wong, senior vice president, marketing and licensing, Strottman International, Irvine, California: ‘There are three primary criteria. First, what does the property have to offer a promotional partner? Is it a classic with solid broadscale, multi-generational awareness, or is it a hot new property with a limited, focused appeal? Second, is there ‘heat’ consumers talking about it, licensing community and retailer buzz? Third, does it fit the client and target customer’s personalities, and bring added value and excitement to the promotion?’

2. How do you formulate schedules for media and promotions?

Baer: ‘Again, it totally depends on the client, how they do their planning and what is important to them from a media standpoint. Some clients have certain times of the year when they need to promote; other clients are wide open and they take advantage of opportunities as they come up; other clients have competitive issues where they need to be in the field with something when the competition is in there. Then there are seasonal issues that affect everyone: holidays, festivals, academy awards, film tie-ins.’

Chin: ‘Promotion and media schedules are formulated based on a variety of factors. A promotion is most successful when it coincides with and leverages the support put forth by the licensor.’

Slater: ‘Schedules are pretty much dictated by our clients’ needs. There are, of course, certain time periods that provide the best timing for hot properties. In movies, the summer and holidays usually are when the studios release their best product. In television, the sweeps months (November, February and May) are very strong.’

Wong: ‘Specializing in entertainment-based, multiple-partner promotions means being constantly aware of timing: theatrical release schedules, home-video release schedules, TV show launch schedules, publishing and toy introductions and changes as they happen. Why? Because at any time, a client opportunity could arise someone in need of ‘the big idea.”

3. What are your lead times? Are they changing?

Baer: ‘If you’re going to do a promotion that involves premiums, that instantly puts you way out [time-wise] because you need to create that premium. With food-service marketers, it takes up to a year or more to create premiums because they’re producing so many of them. In entertainment specifically, there’s more activity going on. People who had shorter lead times are grabbing on to the hot properties quicker because they know [they] won’t be available later on.’

Chin: ‘Lead times vary; however, event promotions tend to require more lead time.’

Slater: ‘[Our lead times are] as long as we can get them. The type of promotion will dictate the lead time required to deliver against a break date. We work on as short as six months to as far out as 18 months.’

Wong: ‘Lead times are definitely shortening. Our agency used to have nine to 12 months to create and implement a national promotion. But now I have as little as four to six months, not simply for creative and development, but [for] complete execution involving custom premiums sourced and manufactured overseas, point-of-sale materials, employee training programs and sweepstakes overlays. For example, we’re working on major, multimillion-dollar national entertainment programs now that have target-in-market dates as early as July 1.’

4. How do you extend QSR promotions into other categories?

Baer: ‘Now, virtually every category out there is familiar with entertainment marketing, and they’re doing things that QSRs pioneered. With major sweepstakes, for example, or games McDonald’s has done Monopoly a lot you’ll see other partners in there who are simply prize partners.’

Chin: ‘A licensor and QSR partner can benefit tremendously by meeting early on in the process to mutually identify ways for partners to extend the tie-in promotion on a variety of levels. Licensors should illustrate cross-divisional tie-in opportunities, from pay-per-view to new media, allowing enough lead time to allow QSRs to take advantage.’

Slater: ‘We generally handle each property and each client need as a unique opportunity. We never do the same promotion for two clients. We might use the same property for more than one client, but the promotions for each will still be unique.’

Wong: ‘With the growth of big event films in entertainment, integrated, multipartner programs have become a tremendous opportunity for clients and licensors alike. Last year’s Goosebumps promotion ran simultaneously at Taco Bell, Pepsi, Hershey, and Frito-Lay multiple PepsiCo divisions capitalized on one of the hottest kids properties of the year. The property benefited from massive consumer exposure.’

5. Do you think multi-tiered promotions and multiple partners are a growing trend?

Baer: ‘The actual number of partners in entertainment promotions has decreased this year, but the numbers of participants in major events is going up. For a major property like Toy Story or Hercules, you’re going to have a lot of partners, but that doesn’t mean they’re partners in the same promotion.’

Chin: ‘Yes. Event properties will continue to attract multiple partners, but licensors are cognizant of the need to avoid oversaturation in the marketplace.’

Slater: ‘Strategic alliances are the most powerful promotions if the two partners really have something to offer each other. The partners must have some synergy and must be able to help each other reach their individual goals, as well as mutual objectives.’

Wong: ‘Without question. As client corporations continue to grow and consolidate, they are seeing the real benefits of integration and synergy of marketing and promotion efforts. Marketplace competition requires high visibility mega-events to break through clutter. Fortunately, well-constructed multipartner events, while complex and challenging to bring together, often deliver the ‘big push’ needed to accomplish sales goals.’

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