A new Mc-worthy chicken sandwich hits the grill

Who: McDonald’s Canada, with Cossette for strategy and creative; Weber Shandwick for PR; OMD Canada for media.

What: The launch campaign for the McCrispy, the fast-food giant’s revamped entry in the ever-expanding chicken sandwich category.

When & Where: McDonald’s soft-launched the sandwich last week, with a clever social campaign targeting “Chris P.’s” and soundalikes (hey, that’s me!). The above-the-line English and French campaign launched today across TV, OLV, out-of-home, and a Spotify activation.

Why: The chicken sandwich has been a major focus for the QSR sector ever since Popeye’s kicked off the “Chicken Sandwich Wars” with the hugely successful introduction of its fried chicken sandwich in 2019. According to Restaurant Business magazine, that one sandwich was largely responsible for a 38% increase in same-store sales for Popeye’s in the first quarter of that year.

Not surprisingly, other chains noticed and have all been trying to wet their beak in the category since then. According to Restaurant Business, at least 20 new chain entries were introduced in the U.S. after the 18 months after the Popeye’s sandwich arrival.

In development for just over one year, the McCrispy is making its global debut in Canada as a permanent addition to the McDonald’s menu.

Rebecca Smart, director brand strategy marketing at McDonald’s Canada, said the McCrispy is the chain’s response to consumer interest in the category. “We just wanted to evolve our offering and bring a new sandwich to consumers that would deliver on that iconic McDonald’s taste,” she said. The sandwich is the first from McDonald’s to use a potato bun, and is topped with simple ingredients designed to “really let the chicken be the star of the show,” said Smart.

How: Smart said the McCrispy represents a “dominant” launch for McDonald’s, which means it’s putting a lot of media dollars behind its debut. “This is a significant campaign to make sure we’re getting the word out there that we’ve launched this new sandwich,” she said.

McDonald’s first teased the campaign on its social channels last week, posting a “recruitment call” in the form of a help wanted ad for Chris P.’s (get it?) as well as associated spellings like Krishna P., Crystal P., and Kriss P. etc., for what it described in the post as a “special project.”

The QSR continued to engage with the Chris P.’s over the weekend, creating a group chat and tagging famous Chris P.’s across Twitter and Instagram in an effort to recruit more of them. On Aug. 22, it gave the Chris P.’s a task—get the McCrispy, taste it and give it the Chris P. seal of approval. It has given more than 250 (and counting) codes to try the sandwich.

The TV creative is all about demonstrating that the McCrispy is a “Mc-worthy” addition to the menu. The ad reflects various customer behaviours, such as those who always want a bite of their companion’s food, those who steal fries, and those who eat everything, even those stray bits of lettuce at the bottom of the box. “Those are all truisms of McDonald’s food… and we’re just playing into that, and fact that our guests can have the same expectation for the McCrispy,” said Smart.

The outdoor creative employs a familiar tactic when it comes to QSR advertising, a super close-up of the sandwich itself. “Out-of-home is all about driving that craveability, so that was really the focus,” says Smart. “We know that juicy and tender are the main things that consumers are looking for with a crispy chicken sandwich, so it’s really about reinforcing that.”

And we quote: “When we create new menu items at McDonald’s we put quality and taste at the forefront. Featuring classic, simple ingredients that allow the chicken to be the star, the McCrispy is the perfect complement to our roster of menu classics like the Big Mac and Quarter Pounder with Cheese.” — Jeff Anderson, senior manager, culinary innovation menu management, McDonald’s Canada

Chris Powell