Bloomberg

McDonald's braves social-media waters with new Q&A campaign

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McDonald's is using more of an unvarnished approach to marketing as it tries to recover from four straight months of declining U.S. same-store sales.

CHICAGO

McDonald's Corp., which hasn't always gotten a warm reception on social media, is taking to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube with a Q&A-style ad campaign, aiming to dispel the notion that its food is unhealthy.

The world's largest restaurant chain began taking questions from Americans Monday via social-networking sites, promising to deliver "real answers." As part of the campaign, former "MythBusters" host Grant Imahara will visit McDonald's suppliers and restaurants nationwide and appear in a series of online videos.

McDonald's is using more of an unvarnished approach to marketing as it tries to recover from four straight months of declining U.S. same-store sales. Venturing into social media can be risky for well-known brands. Earlier this year, McDonald's drew ridicule on Twitter and Facebook for a toothy Happy Meal mascot that some people described as frightening. The company also has been targeted by viral videos, such as one showing a McNugget under a microscope.

McDonald's already has a frequently-asked-questions page on its website with some unflattering information about its food. The company does use food coloring in its milkshakes, for instance, and its McRib sandwich is made from pork shoulder — along with salt, water, dextrose and some preservatives. On the other hand, most restaurants use freshly cracked eggs for breakfast sandwiches, and its apple pies have real apples, McDonald's said.

In a new YouTube video, the company filmed Americans asking questions, including some tough ones like "Does McDonald's even sell real food?" and "That pink slime...what's up with that?" One person in the clip says she has read that McDonald's food contains horse meat.

McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, has been rolling out new menu items and price promotions as it tries to revive U.S. growth. That includes $2 jalapeno burgers and a 20-pack of Chicken McNuggets for $5. McDonald's has about 14,200 domestic locations.

The fast-food chain has introduced similar ad campaigns in Canada and Australia. Its Canadian website, for example, explains food origins for items such as the cheese and gravy used in poutine.

The more open dialogue follows questions about McDonald's food safety, especially overseas.

Earlier this year, one of the company's suppliers in China, OSI Group, was investigated for changing the expiration dates on food. The probe led to shortages of certain menu items and sales declines. In Russia, consumer-safety regulators have shut down some of the chain's locations, citing violations of sanitary rules.

"People are looking for faster, more straightforward responses to their questions about our food," Ben Stringfellow, a spokesman for McDonald's USA, said in a statement. "We're looking forward to engaging in two-way conversations with as many people as possible."

(c) 2014, Bloomberg News

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