July 12th, 2009

McDonald's Likes Leno for In-Show Monopoly Promo

By Theresa Howard
USA Today

McDonald’s will roll the dice on Jay Leno’s new prime-time show this fall with a supersize promotion for its Monopoly game.

Leno will begin a 29-day in-show promotion on Oct. 6. The deal, to be announced Monday, is the first major ad buy for the show.

“Leno was at one point a McDonald’s crew person,” says Peter Sterling, the chain’s vice president for marketing. “People love him. He has a great reputation. As people are sampling Leno, it’s a great opportunity to elevate (the show and the game).”

Even so, McDonald’s, like many advertisers now, is holding off on long-term ad deals and has not signed up for the show for the season.

“We did (the promotion) as a one off,” says Sterling. “We ... are a long, longstanding supporter of network TV, but the media marketplace and the economy are different than in the past.”

That’s apparent with TV’s spring ad-selling period known as the “upfront,” when networks sell ad time for the coming new season. Usually wrapped up by now, it’s at a standstill.

“The upfront has stalled because we are in a recession economy, and marketers are looking for price rollbacks,” says John Miller, chief marketing officer for the NBC Universal Television Group.

While networks are resisting discounts, marketers are getting deals sweetened by more integration of their products into shows and storylines.

“We are doing a ton more integration,” Miller says. With the spread of DVRs, “advertisers want to make sure their messages get seen.”

McDonald’s will be integrated with mentions by Leno and NBC cooperation in running a Monopoly-related contest during a commercial break, with a prize of either $1 million or $10,000. Starting Sept. 22, people can enter at playatmcd.com. One player each day will land on the Monopoly board’s “Chance.”

Leno will set up the ad in his second act and in the ad break that follows, actors from NBC shows will roll dice. If they roll a pair of sixes, the person who landed on “Chance” that day wins $1 million. If they don’t, the person wins $10,000. The dice roll will be on a set designed as a combination of a game show and McDonald’s restaurant. Neither the show or drawing are “live,” but will be recorded earlier the same day.

“The reason this works so well for Leno is the fact that it is (recorded) that day,” says Miller. “That’s a unique proposition.”

As part of the deal, McDonald’s will promote Leno along with Monopoly on packaging and game boards in its 13,000 restaurants.

“From a marketer’s standpoint, I was delighted,” says Miller, the NBC marketer. “Somewhere around 800 million people will go through McDonald’s stores over the length of the promotion, and they will all be pointed to The Jay Leno Show.”

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