How McDonald’s Won Monopoly And Drove Real Money To Its Franchises

McDonald's worked with Omnicom media agency OMD and NinthDecimal to see if mobile ads could drive offline traffic and sales.

For the past 30 years, McDonald’s has run annual coupon promotions with Hasbro’s Monopoly game to get consumers in the chain’s 36,000 global locations.

In 2015, the chain worked with Omnicom media agency OMD and geo-data ad platform NinthDecimal to see if the mobile version of the coupon sweepstakes would be able to provide a lift to in-store traffic and sales.

Location Accuracy: It’s Over-rated

While the companies wouldn’t release actual numbers detailing the store lift — it’s McDonald’s secret — Erin Kienast, Digital Group Account Director at OMD, and Brian Kilmer, VP Sales for NinthDecimal, offered a few insights about the nature of location-based advertising at during a presentation at this past week’s Local Search Association’s Place Conference in Chicago.

Source: NinthDecimal
Source: NinthDecimal

For one thing, location accuracy among targeting providers is not a major issue for media buyers, Kienast told the room of location business service and proximity marketing vendors. In her view, a few centimeters between mobile ad targets don’t matter. Accumulation of vast amounts of geo-data isn’t impressive either.

The only thing that matters is access to clear, actionable consumer insights that will lead to a sale for her clients.

“I don’t give a s–t about location in the sense of, “Hey, location is a selling point.” Everybody and their mother can do that,” Kienast said. “Your unique technology is not going to drive someone to one of my restaurants. I want to know how you’re going to use the data technology to better inform me of who my consumer is, how am I actually going to drive a sale, and increase guest engagement over time.”

“For me it’s the accuracy of data is only going to get you so far because okay, get me a centimeter closer, great, you can get me a centimeter closer,” Kienast continued. “To me, that’s not solving a business challenge, because arguably everybody could get me within a centimeter, an inch, a foot, a hundred yards, whatever you want to use. To me it comes down to the data that’s underlining that location. Are you providing me with transaction data?”

QSRs’ Challenge

Among quick serve restaurants, there is little differentiation, except taste preference and striking the right deal to get a consumer to choose one outlet versus another. McDonald’s use of Monopoly for its yearly sweepstakes brings two icons together to attract consumers with the promise of winning prizes.

Over the past two years, McDonald’s has expanded its use of mobile payment to drive loyalty. It’s also experimented with virtual reality to connect with digital consumers by demonstrating its ability to personalize its marketing. But its use of location targeting is viewed as more practical method of driving business, rather than something that is simply a call for brand affinity and awareness.

“When you think about Monopoly as a once-a-year promotional vehicle, the question for mobile advertising is: how do you actually use that as a trigger to get consumers in store?” Kienast said. “Monopoly on mobile alone is probably not going to do it. But it opens things up to where we can see how do we start understanding  the consumers who are playing Monopoly. And then, it lets us see who have a higher propensity to go to McDonald’s.”

Getting Foodies Into McDonalds?

As NinthDecimal and OMD looked at the locations and the people who were playing McDonald’s on their smartphones, they noticed some surprising patterns.

NinthDecimal started the process by identifying frequent McDonald’s patrons. The first geotargeted Monopoly ads were sent to those the individuals to see the ads.

“McDonald’s then told us, ‘Let’s find switchers,'” said NinthDecimal’s Kilmer. “We set out to find people who go to McDonald’s, but they’re not brand loyal to McDonald’s. Let’s get them in store and serve them a message. Part of the campaign entailed telling consumers they could win a prize in the app as well as you win by playing in the store. We actually saw that these two audiences were the ones driving the ad effectiveness visits to McDonald’s locations.”

But the biggest surprise of consumers who saw the geotargeted ads and visited a McDonald’s during the two-week promotional period: consumers identified as “foodies.”

As Kienast noted, the idea of people who pride themselves as adventurous eaters being lured into McDonald’s by a Monopoly sweepstakes was something of a “headscratcher.” But there was another consumer profile associated with those consumers that made the results more credible.

“When you layer in business traveler on top of foodie, it makes sense,” she said. “I’m a business traveler and particularly when you’re looking at an item like an Egg White Delight, you hit that intersection of foodie and business traveler. And they have a higher propensity to go to a McDonald’s, particularly in airports because they’re on-the-go.”

Another key insight NinthDecimal and OMD saw involved consumers going to the McDonald’s closest to their home, but not ones that were closest to where the ad was served to them.

“When someone sees an ad for QSR, you generally have two days to activate them,” Kilmer said. “After that, the message is gone and you’re not going to see an increase in visits as a result. But when there’s a certain amount of immediacy,  people are still going to routine based.”


About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.