McDonald's: Agency Interview with Andrew McCartney, Tribal Worldwide

Andrew McCartney, SVP, Managing Director, Tribal Worldwide, Toronto, talks to IPA Effectiveness editor Carlos Grande.



Q1. When and why did you decide to launch the ‘Our Food. Your Questions’ campaign?
McDonald’s decided to launch ‘Our Food. Your Questions’ (OF.YQ) in June 2012 because it was time to change how Canadians viewed its food. Despite dozens of progressive improvements McDonald’s had made to its supply chain, food safety processes and quality ingredients over the past decade – consumer perception of its food remained negative.

And with the pervasive use of social media and growing popularity of social feeds, negative imagery of fast food was rampant on the internet.

Q2.  How did you feel about the original brief?
The original brief was a straightforward, ‘share our quality food’ story, emphasizing local sourcing, high quality ingredients and the fact the food is prepared fresh daily in the restaurants.

Perhaps the brief was a little too straight though, since consumers weren’t buying it.

Despite effective ‘food quality-focused’ TV commercials, any shift in perception wasn’t sustained once the advertising was off air.

So we took the brief and turned it on its head by proposing a different approach to our client, Marketing Manager Michelle McIllmoyle, who is responsible for the McDonald’s Canada Food Quality story.

Q3. How hard was it to get the campaign green lit?
This is the question everyone asks about ‘Our Food. Your Questions’ campaign.  There was no drama, McDonald’s has tremendously astute, brave marketers and the moment they heard the idea, they were all in.

A couple of presentations later to the executive team and then the larger organization and ‘Our Food Your Questions’ had the full support of the company.

While led by the marketing & communications team, ‘Our Food.Your Questions’ touches the entire organization including deep involvement from the supply chain, food quality systems, legal and, of course, the employees who participate regularly in answering questions.

Q4. When and how did you first know that you had been successful?
To ensure we’d get the level of consumer engagement we’d planned for, we ran a 30-day pilot before launching full scale.

After gathering the first few hundred questions, our instincts were confirmed that our transparent, candid approach was working – consumers and media felt it was authentic and were hooked, asking all kinds of questions.

Q5. What was the biggest challenge in demonstrating the effectiveness of your work?
With any brand perception change effort, it is challenging to measure the day 1, week 1 sales lift.  Immediate sales growth was never the primary goal, yet over time we’ve measured the positive change to brand perception and the link to long-term sales growth.  Fortunately ,McDonald’s has very strong global research that validates this approach with brand tracking in place that correlate those KPIs.

Q6. What lessons did this campaign teach you?
Teamwork and preparation are key to addressing just about any challenge that may come your way.

Speed to market with responses to consumers’ questions was vital to deliver the authenticity and trust inherent in ‘Our Food…’.  Thus, collaboration with the marketing and communications teams at McDonald’s is critical.

We’ve built deep, trusted relationships across our teams and a seamless process for providing accurate and timely responses to whatever questions about McDonald’s food come our way.

Q7. What were the low points/high points of this campaign?
High point: seeing the positive effect on the brand in Canada, then seeing the idea spread around the world to 20+ markets.

Low point: seeing the dark side of society coming through in the form of the strangest questions, unrelated to McDonald’s altogether.  There are some people out there who spend way too much time on the internet.

Q8.  What would you do differently if you did this campaign over again?
Start inside and work our way out to the consumer.  There are more than 85,000 McDonald’s employees in Canada, the vast majority of which serve guests everyday.

They are real people who have their own questions and building a strong base of knowledge from the inside out can only build even stronger ambassadors to amplify the campaign.

Carlos Grande ( is the effectiveness editor of the IPA, formerly of the Financial Times and Warc

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