Like all marketing and advertising professionals, I eagerly await the big budget advertiser's Super Bowl ads: What will companies spend money on this year? In a particularly strange ad, McDonald's spoofed the Virgin Mary Toast that fetched $28,000 in a recent online auction. Did you notice the URL at the end of the McDonald's ad -- www.lincolnfry.com? I did and I went to the site to see what was there.
It seems McDonald's is using the tie-in site to create viral marketing buzz abound the french fry that resembles Lincoln's head. Obviously there was a lot of big-budget ad agency work behind the online efforts. And Yahoo! clearly ponied up some of the costs because the site is hosted on Yahoo and the prop french fry is for sale on Yahoo! actions (363 bids, latest bid $21,600 from "Golden Palace Casino").
The Lincoln Fry site, which appears to be built in Flash, features downloads "Celebrate the Lincoln Fry phenomenon with these fine digital souvenirs, a Lincoln Fry blog (built in TypePad, just like Web Ink Now) and other stuff. The joke was kind of funny in the TV spot and the tie-in home page is OK, but when you enter the site the spoof just gets annoying.
In typical Madison Avenue style, the site is heavy on graphics and style but short on real content. Each time you leave the Lincoln Fry site a rediculous "Leaving McDonald's Web Site" message with corporate disclaimers appears and you're dropped into the Yahoo! home page requiring a needless search for the action itself. I would have dropped visitors right into the auction, but I guess that's Yahoo's marketing point -- you need to look through Yahoo! to find auctions and that helps consumers to see what Yahoo! has. But I think many people will become frustrated and click away, never to return.
I come away from this valiant effort feeling a little bit violated. I think a better approach would have been to tone down the hype and just create a simple spoof site. Rather than all the high-end graphics and ad agency sizzle, I would have created the site in a way that an individual who had found a Lincoln Fry would have -- basic, bare bones, and with lots of content describing it. With all the bells and whistles and tie-ins, this seems too corporate to catch on through viral effects. The blog is better -- it has a stripped down minimalist feel, but how many people will go there?
I read a bunch of articles from major media on the Super Bowl ads from The New York Times, Newsday, and The Washington Post but none mentioned the Lincoln Fry tie-in site. So much for big media helping the viral effect along.
I doubt millions spent on this effort will catch on in any meaningful way, but time will tell. Watch out for those Lincoln Fry t-shirts and if you see one, please let me know.