McDonald's Touts Greenness With 'Bee Movie' Tie-In

McDonald's Corp. is using its latest promotional tie-in with a DreamWorks Animation film to come out of the shadows and tout its green marketing initiatives.

In promoting its tie-in with "Bee Movie," the fast food company has brought in long-time partner Conservation International to help promote the movie's environmental message. McDonald's has worked with Conservation International for nearly 20 years on sustainability and environmental issues, particularly in its supply chain. The movie's theme offered an opportunity to promote that work, as well as further education about the environment, says Bob Langert, vice president/corporate social responsibility for McDonald's.

"When it comes to talking about the environment and the public, you always have to lead with substance," Langert says. "We're not new to green initiatives and environmental marketing."

A large part of the message is coming through the company's Happy Meal tie-in marketing. The program encourages kids to "Bee Good to the Planet." The movement encourages kids to make pledges at happymeal.com, with promises to improve the environment through environmentally friendly activity. The site, which also features tips from Conservation International, asks kids to set up their own "Bee House" in "New Hive City" and play games encouraging conservation. In addition, McDonald's will contribute to CI's efforts to preserve bee habitats in Mexico and South Africa.

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"This is all part of where families and moms and kids are at," Langert says. "Kids want to be more altruistic and more in touch with the world."

The cross-promotional effort began in late October and will continue to roll out throughout the world in the coming months, according to a McDonald's representative. International promos will be customized by country. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the company will launch a new pineapple and grapefruit bag offering and an on-packaging competition asking kids to draw a "bee friendly" flower. Each child who submits a flower drawing will receive a package of seeds to plant.

Langert says the company's green messaging is likely to continue beyond the "Bee Movie" tie-in, although he declined to provide specifics. "Our work here isn't going to be a one-hit deal," he says.

The promotion is the second in McDonald's deal with DreamWorks Animation, announced in July 2005. The first, to help promote "Shrek 3," was McDonald's largest promotion of fruit vegetables and milk, which was important as the company comes under increased scrutiny of its marketing efforts that target children. The effort, which included Happy Meal promotions and menu items, also featured games encouraging exercise and activity on its happymeal.com Web site. The "Bee Movie" promotion continues to promote the chain's healthier fare, according to company executives.

McDonald's signed the deal with DreamWorks Animation as it was about to emerge from a 10-year exclusive promotional deal with Disney. The company's partnership with DreamWorks Animation is not exclusive. The "Shrek" promotion was "enormously popular"--helping push May's comparable sales 7.4% higher than in the previous year, according to John Owens, a stock analyst covering McDonald's at Morningstar.

The company has been promoting its "Bee Movie" tie-in with Happy Meal-themed commercials, as well as an adult-themed commercial promoting its premium coffee, a new blend that rolled out last year to restaurants around the country. The commercials feature the voice of Jerry Seinfeld--who also wrote "Bee Movie" and voices its main character.

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