McCain has the solution to awkward family moments—French fries

Who: McCain Foods, with Rethink for strategy and creative, Partners Film Company for production (directed by Michael Downing), post-production by R&D, Wave Productions for audio, Brand Narrative for PR, and UM for media.

What: “DistractiFRY,” a playful campaign built around the idea of a device that sits in the middle of the dinner table and—upon hearing a trigger phrase that could lead to awkward moments—dispenses hot McCain fries to distract whoever brought up the hot-button issue.

When & Where: The campaign launched Nov. 30, with an emphasis on social video (YouTube and TikTok), and a concerted PR push. The paid media will run until mid December. There’s also a contest website, with entries open until Dec. 23.

Why: The conceit behind this one is that families getting together during the holidays can often bring about divisive conversations that heighten tensions. McCain says it can help by dispensing French fries as temperatures rise, because almost everyone loves French fries.

“Despite best intentions, awkward moments can arise during family gatherings,” said Matt Kohler, managing director at McCain, in a release. “Our goal is to bring people together, and the DistractiFRY is a fun, relatable way to connect with your loved ones.”

While they have actually made a DistractiFRY, and will be giving away an experience with it (more below) this is really about the idea of such a device and the funny—and they hope shareable—video creative showing a DistractiFRY at work.

“We feel that French fries are a way to bring people together,” Michael Embir, McCain’s director of marketing retail, told The Message. Because almost everyone loves French fries, they have the power unify people. The DistractiFRY is a playfully outlandish extension of that theory, but also a way to deliver the message in a way that is “breakthrough and funny and relatable,” he said.

How: Rethink has made an actual DistractiFRY that listens for one of 80 trigger phrases, such as “Got a job yet?”, “Who are you voting for?” and “When are you getting married?”  And McCain is running a contest that will see the winner rewarded with a DistractiFRY experience—a catered meal for a large family gathering, with lots of McCain fries.

But the anchor of the campaign is the 80-second promotional video that demonstrates just how effective the DistractiFRY could be at a large family dinner, where one couple wants to talk about seeing an “intimacy coach,” for example, and someone else doesn’t want to be cancelled for what he’s about to say.

“Smart technology listens for key words and phrases like ‘Crypto,’ ‘Still single?’ and ‘When are you going to get a real job?” explains the voiceover.

Aside from the anchor video, McCain is doing influencer outreach, including with popular Canadian TikToker  @KallMeKris, who has already posted a video about it. The DistractiFRY will also be featured on the popular Toronto morning show Breakfast Television.

“We want people to engage with the content,” said Embir. “It’s a way to break through with the target as much as possible in a way that relates to them, in a way that makes them laugh, and associates our brand with this idea of bringing people together. That’s really important for us.”

And we quote: “We sell French fries. And it’s a fun product, and it’s a product that people love. And it brings a lot of joy to consumers… So we’re bringing a little bit more fun into our brand which I think our consumers are appreciating.” —Michael Embir, McCain’s director of marketing retail

David Brown