McDonald’s advertises free coffee in the sky

A Montreal stunt pilot is today skywriting 'café gratuit' and the golden arches with his plane in a special execution advertising free coffee, in a campaign that also includes national TV, radio and a variety of OOH placements.

McDonald’s is in the clouds today, advertising free coffee with skywriting during an acrobatics show in Montreal this morning. The aviation stunt is part of the launch of a national, two-week campaign promoting McDonald’s offer of a free, small coffee during breakfast to its customers, which also includes TV, OOH and radio advertising developed by Cossette with a buy arranged by OMD Canada.

The skywriting, which was entirely arranged by Montreal-based communications agency The Lab Foundation, has been promoted for the past three weeks through viral efforts including a blog, Facebook page and videos that show the pilot drinking from a McDonald’s cup in preparation for his big day. The agency also created a lot of buzz by posting a special effects video of a plane seemingly flying under a bridge in Montreal, explains Pascal Beauchesne, creative strategist at The Lab Foundation.

Skywriting is a technique that was often used to advertise in the 1980s, says Beauchesne. ‘So we just decided to link a vintage marketing strategy as a new media with the viral, to connect everything together,’ Beauchesne tells MiC. The ‘café gratuit’ smoke message lasts about two minutes in the air, but pilot Gian Piero Ciambella will also draw about a dozen McDonald’s arches several times around lunch time. For every person that looks up on a busy street, another 20 or 30 people will as well, says Beauchesne, adding that this reach strategy of ‘collective awareness’ is experimental.

‘They wanted an idea that had a wow effect,’ says Beauchesne of the campaign, which aims to increase coffee sales this year. The campaign also includes giant steaming cups of coffee placed in high-traffic downtown areas across Canada. As well, the fast food chain is extending the promotion with a chance for one person to win 500 ‘Be My Guest’ free coffee cards for consumers who upload a mug shot of themselves on the microsite,

‘Breakfast continues to be a growth driver for McDonald’s Canada, and our coffee sales have been a significant contributor to our business momentum since we introduced our Premium Roast blend in 2003,’ says John Betts, president of McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada, in a release. Recent stats show that this past February McDonald’s Canada sold about 1.3 million more cups of coffee over the same period last year.