Mobile Marketing in the Wild: McDonalds Little Piccadilly

IMG_20140401_112939391Weve been hearing a lot about the convergence of outdoor and mobile advertising of late, and last week saw one of the most high profile campaigns in this space yet, as McDonalds took over one of Piccadilly Circus iconic screens for its Little Piccadilly campaign.

With Advertising Week Europe taking place just around the corner, Mobile Marketing decided to take the opportunity to try the campaign out for ourselves.


The good
The campaign encourages passers-by to visit a mobile site in order to create a customised character which, once finished, appears in all their animated glory on the digital ad screen. Its certainly a novel idea, and the execution is hard to fault.

While a lot of outdoor campaigns that require mobile interaction struggle to communicate with the man on the street exactly what theyre meant to be doing – think about the last AR and NFC poster you saw – here the process is clearly signposted on the big screen. The URL is promoted repeatedly, along with a simple three-step guide for users to follow.

The microsite presents a neat app-style experience, and theres little friction. Its possible to knock together a character in three or four minutes, which isnt slowed down by having to download an app – again, think about those NFC and AR campaigns.

Everything is designed to be as accessible and welcoming and possible, right down to the campaigns distinctive cartoon art style and the diversity options in the customisation, which puts the option to give your character a wheelchair front and centre.

IMG_20140401_113557873The bad
The user experience is smooth and, even to my jaded journalist mind, there was a small thrill seeing my creation appear, larger than life, on the screen.

So why do I remain unconvinced by the campaign as a whole?

One simple reason: it meant standing still for five minutes, smartphone in hand, at a pedestrian crossing in Piccadilly Circus. If youve ever tried this, youll understand that at best, youre going to suffer a lot of jostling and elbowing; at worst, youre going to get your phone nicked. At one point, I looked up from my smartphone screen to realise Id unwittingly joined a walking tour of French teenagers, who were peering at my phone. Its only my professional curiosity that kept me interacting.

Thats not so much a problem with this campaign specifically as it is with the mobile/outdoor idea in general. If passers-by are willing to invest the time and effort into playing with the site, its a rewarding little experience which fits nicely into the current a McDonalds for everyone message the brand is trying to convey.

But can you honestly see many normal people investing that time in the first place? Looking at the characters being displayed on-screen, representing the people whove interacted so far – almost entirely men and, with the amount of scarves, facial hair and architects glasses, looking suspiciously like people from within the industry – I have my doubts.