Who Are The Olympic Games’ Biggest Advertising Winners And Losers?

It’s the second week of the 2012 Olympics, and yesterday WPP’s MediaCom Sport unit announced the advertising winners and losers.

Ingratiation wins, hypocrisy loses.

Analyzing raw data compiled by social-media monitoring firm Brandwatch, their Twitter Tracker ranked tweets about 25 Olympic sponsors for not only number of tweets, but also for positivity or negativity.

A warm, ingratiating campaign was the gold winner, while a hypocritical one was the biggest loser.

Hypocrisy loses

Of the 25 Olympic sponsors tracked, each of whom spent in the nine figures advertising, McDonald’s finished dead last. This wasn’t because consumers didn’t notice or respond to their campaign, but because they really didn’t like it.

You might recall that the McDonald’s campaign’s “fundamental principal [sic],” according to global brand officer and 1980 Olympic trials runner Kevin Newell, was to “encourage fun, active play as well as smart eating.”

So their commercials featured everyone from kids to professional athletes around the world racing each other to a McDonald’s outlet, with the winner getting such “smart eating” as Big Macs and fries. A website carried through this theme with games for kids to play, featuring virtual athletic contents like swimming the Atlantic. Online. Well, at least the kids got to exercise their thumbs.

According to MediaCom Sport’s global head Marcus John, this provoked hugely negative sentiment about the “perceived contradiction of the brand’s Olympic association given general health concerns” about all the salty, sugary and fatty fast foods that are McDonald’s stock in trade.

This contradiction between what McDonald’s commercials say and what McDonald’s serves was “the dominant trend in conversation,” He added. “[C]oupled with the extensive reach of the brand, [this] ensures the McDonald’s score remains significantly negative.”

Focus on the audience wins

Twitter Tracker’s winner was a campaign with all the honesty that McDonald’s lacked — though it did go out of its way to romance married women.

Last month, we wrote this about Procter & Gamble‘s uncharacteristic and winning campaign:

At a time when television screens are inundated with spots showing athletes doing their thing and glorifying their brands’ roles in making that possible; when the air waves are filled with sanctimonious ads lecturing about such highfalutin’ subjects as Diversity, Physical Activity and Health; when every advertiser is a “proud sponsor of the 2012 Olympics”; P&G’s ad campaign is doing something completely different — connecting with its target audience.

P&G’s Olympics advertising isn’t really about the Olympics. It’s about their audience — the mothers of the world who raise and take care of their kids with love and hard work (and buy Procter & Gamble products, but the spots don’t talk about that). So while viewers see some Olympic-type footage, it’s with a twist, and only in a supporting role. The stars of the commercials are mothers.

Not only did P&G’s “Proud sponsors of Moms” campaign take a refreshingly different tack from McDonald’s and other Olympic sponsors, but also, unlike McDonald’s, they carried it through all media, from broadcast to online, consistently.

As a result, it “attracts very little negative sentiment” compared to McDonald’s, John said, so while P&G has “comparatively less reach across Twitter” than McDonald’s and other brands, more positive sentiment helped helped it go for, and win, the gold.

Consumers aren’t stupid

One of the first and most important lessons a budding copywriter learns about writing effective advertising is that “if you have to call it something, it ain’t.”

When your main product is greaseburgers and fries, all the high-minded but empty assertions about health and physical activity in the world aren’t going to cut it with your audience. Because from Richmond, Virginia, to Richmond, England, they can spot hypocrisy a mile away (or, in the case of Richmond, England, 1.60934 kilometers away).

And when you glorify your audience by showing you truly understand what their lives are about, they can spot that, too — and show their appreciation in the marketplace.

It’s great that P&G finally learned that lesson. And a great shame that McDonald’s still hasn’t.

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