TGIF's Very Friendly Online Promotion


What happens when a social media strategy takes off faster than expected?

TGI Friday's found out this month when, after just six days of media support, its new marketing character, Woody, achieved a Facebook promotional goal expected to occur over almost 30 days. The momentum swell that initially buoyed the brand online, in fact, threatened to drag it down -- until some quick thinking helped save the day.

TGIF's enviable "problem" began with the creation of Woody, developed by its new agency, Publicis, New York (which worked with sibling Digitas on the campaign). Earlier this month, to prove his self-described "No. 1 fan" status, Woody needed to acquire 500,000 friends on Facebook by Sept. 30. Each friend would receive a coupon for a free Jack Daniel's burger or chicken sandwich in return.

After a soft launch on Sept. 2 and subsequent e-mail campaign, Woody picked up 80,000 friends-even before TV and digital banners were launched Sept. 7. Sunday, Sept. 13, Woody hit the 500,000 mark. "[It was] fascinating to watch this explode," said Rob Feakins, president, CCO, Publicis, New York, of the highly successful campaign.

It was also stressful. With two weeks of paid media to go, the agency knew it had to add to the strategy. So on the 13th, after an exchange of 80 agency/client e-mails and five conference calls, it was agreed the promo would be extended.

As it turned out, that was a very good decision. That same Sunday night it became clear that Woody's friends who joined after the 500,000 level was hit were unhappy they'd missed out on the promo. The negative chatter carried over into Monday. People voiced frustration about not getting a coupon; accused Woody of working for TGIF; and complained about the use of marketing ploys in social media. On Monday, Woody offered six free chicken wings during that night's Monday Night Football at participating TGIFs. Few were appeased.

On Tuesday, Woody hinted good news was in the works. Later that day, an online video was posted extending the promo to the first 1 million sign-ups.

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