Smart speaker gets it wrong in the best way possible for Mary Brown’s

Who: Mary Brown’s, with Blue Ant Plus for strategy, creative and production and post-production.

What: “Hey Smart Home,” a campaign to help raise awareness of the introduction of a grilled chicken sandwich to the Mary Brown’s menu.

When & Where: The sandwich and campaign both launched at the end of March, with TV, online video, social and PR.

Why: While the fried chicken sandwich war is ongoing and Mary Brown’s is still very much in that fight, other QSRs have offered a grilled option, which Mary Brown’s has never carried before, said Angela Windsor, director of marketing for Mary Brown’s Chicken.

Consumers like to have options, said Windsor. “If you had a group of people that were going to Mary Brown’s, and someone wanted a grilled option, this is it.”

Despite competing against major international players in the category, made-in-Canada Mary Brown’s remains on a steep growth curve. After opening 50 stores across Canada in 2021 and 2022, the chain now has 240 locations across the country, with plans to add 40 more in the next year.

The grilled chicken is prepared in ovens Mary Brown’s rolled out last year, when it introduced biscuits to the menu. “We want to do more than biscuits, so it was a great option to utilize the oven that our franchisees purchased,” said Windsor.

How: The sandwich was launched with a social and PR-led free sandwich giveaway, along with paid social, online video and TV advertising—the latter based on an increasingly relatable scenario in which a smart speaker misunderstands a user request.

The spot opens on a couple assembling furniture in their living room, when the man asks: “Hey smart home, what time is it?” The smart speaker replies: “It sounds like you want a grilled chicken sandwich.” At first the couple appear confused by the response, until the smart speaker shows them the Mary Brown’s sandwich on their TV. When the women says the sandwich looks really good, the smart home orders two for delivery.

“I know I’ve had numerous times where, all of a sudden, Alexa will say “Oh, did you want blah blah blah?” And it’s like ‘No, I wasn’t even talking to you,’” laughed Windsor. “It was a fun play on how [smart speakers] can go off on their own, but in this way it works to our benefit because it was pushing our grilled chicken sandwich.”

“We all really loved the simple and relatable insight that our smart speakers are listening to us, but don’t always get it right,” said Toni Rufo, head of client services at Blue Ant Plus. “This creative concept allowed us to showcase the ever-important online delivery aspect of Mary Brown’s business and introduce customers to their new delicious grilled chicken product.”

You want waffle fries with that? Blue Ant Plus also produced an ad for Mary Brown’s waffle fries during the shoot for the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. “It made sense since they’re running together in the same promotional period for us, that they kind of match each other,” said Windsor. In the second spot, the woman asks for the weather, but the smart speaker is convinced she wants waffle fries.

The unique production model at Blue Ant Plus lets them maximize output while staying on budget and on deadline, said Rufo. “With Mary Brown’s, we oversaw writing the creative script and produced two separate commercials—a waffle fries and grilled chicken ad.”


David Brown