Was This The Best Time For McD’s ‘Pay With Lovin” Campaign?

Maybe McDonald's just has too much going on

McDonald’s contribution to the Super Bowl ad frenzy was a clip promising customers that random acts of kindness will be accepted as payment for meals between February 2 and Valentine’s Day.

As you can see in the clip, these are mostly heartwarming customer experiences. So in the end, you reaffirm your love for your family, you get some McD’s fries and McDonald’s is part of something that diners will not soon forget.

But according to the clips captured by Business Insider, the way this plays out has been largely awkward.

When you involve the public in your campaign, the risk of error increases. So the fact that there have been some weird encounters shouldn’t be a surprise. But there are a couple things worth noting in these and the other clips that are featured on BI.

First, the McDonald’s staffers don’t seem all too enthusiastic about this promotion. It’s another example of why your customer-facing staffers are so incredibly important. The excitement that they generate about the promotion will be reflected in the excitement from customers. At the very least, diners should be happy they’re getting a free meal.

Second, the customers look baffled. This promotion was launched with a Super Bowl ad. This Super Bowl was the most watched show in TV history. So the ad clearly didn’t break through the evening’s excitement. More than that, you question whether this is a promotion that’s being pushed in the restaurants. Sure you want people to be surprised, but you want to a cringeworthy episode of confusion. So maybe a heads up that the next person in line might be eligible for a free meal would be a good idea.*

Separately, given the fact that McDonald’s has a lot going on right now in its efforts to turn things around, this might have been something to either shorten in duration or postpone entirely. Right now, we’ve got clips of the food being made, new taglines and a buzzed about ad with the Golden Arches sign. And for anyone who’s been paying close enough attention, there’s new leadership settling into place. Since this is such a consumer-driven campaign, it may have been better to hold off to take full advantage of the idea when it’s not quite so hectic.

Of course, free food is always great. And marketing is clearly a big part of what the company is doing to jump start sales. Maybe this is something to bring back bigger and better at another time.

*Update: To this end, we have a firsthand account of how truly awkward this experience is from The Wall Street Journal.

I stood there for a mortified second or two, and then the cashier mercifully suggested that we all dance together. Not wanting to be a spoilsport, I forced a smile and “raised the roof” a couple of times, as employees tried to lure cringing customers into forming some kind of conga line, asking them when they’d last been asked to dance.

The public embarrassment ended soon enough, and I slunk away with my free breakfast, thinking: Now there’s an idea that never should have left the conference room.

Though it should be noted that the reporter, Kate Bachelder, reports that the staff was quite enthusiastic about the whole thing. So there’s that.