01 January 1999

LIKE MOST promotional fiascos, it seemed a good idea at the time -’ as Hoover would attest! Fast food chain McDonald’s, whose cholesterol cuisine has survived for a quarter of a century, decided to celebrate this feat in the UK with a special ‘two for the price of one’ offer on its Big Mac burger brand, sup-porting the promo with a substantial ad campaign. McDonald’s largesse proved irresistible to The Great British Public and instead of the projected take-up of an extra one million burgers a day -’ four times the average intake - the GBP wolfed its way through eight times their usual daily quota, queuing for up to two hours for the privilege and bringing the normally slick Mac operation to a grinding halt. The crush even caused police to advise closure of some McDonald’s drive-through emporia because of heavy traffic congestion. Quoth Mac mouthpiece Mike Love: ‘We are pretty mystified ourselves by the response. We set-up the deal on the basis of our not inconsiderable experience with these promotions -’ but no promotion has seen an eight-fold increase in sales before.’ As a result, the fast food fryer was compelled to take even more ad space to apologise to the GBP for stock shortages and thank it for its ‘patience and understanding’. McDonald’s was zip-lipped, however, about the cost of this massive over-redemption.

Burger King hit back at McDonald’s, BOGOF bog-up with its own Free Fryday campaign. Determined to avoid a Big Mac-style fiasco, BK tempted bruised British tastebuds with at least three million free portions of its new coated chip, King Fries. Chief executive Dennis Malamatinas jetted-in from downtown Miami HQ to ensure that no quarter was granted the be-leaguered Brits: ‘I guarantee we won’t run out’, he boasted. Good as his word, Den ensured hefty back-up for what he modestly [and erroneously] claimed as the biggest sampling operation in history. In a military-style operation, juggernauts packed with top-up supplies of King Fries were parked nearby larger BK outlets and extra space in cold stores was rented nationwide.