McDonald’s, already a leading mobile marketer, kicked up its efforts a notch this year by leveraging real-time technology to support how consumers use their smartphones to engage with the real world while driving traffic into a nearby location.
A new digital billboard was installed in the busy intersection in the heart of Bukit Bintang, a popular shopping district in Kuala Lumpur, where temperatures can rise to above 100°F. The area has a high level of foot traffic, but is saturated with competing display advertising. McDonald’s Save the Sundae Cone campaign had a McDonald’s Sundae Cone on the digital billboard, which was slowly melting in the heat of the city. To “save” the sundae cone, the audience needed to spin a giant fan that would ‘cool’ the sundae cone and ‘un-melt’ it. They did this by spinning a mini-fan, which was accessed through their mobile device’s web browser. At the end, participants were given a voucher on their smartphone to be redeemed at a McDonald’s across the street for a free sundae cone.
A total of 265 sundaes were saved over the campaign period, with a total of 1825 coupons given out to at least 170 people. Considering that we only had 960 minutes total airtime, we were able to drive on average 5 customers into the store per minute.
Spin a giant fan to cool down the ice cream and stop it from melting
The digital billboard, the areas first Internet-connected billboard, appeared in a busy shopping district. On the billboard was featured an image of a McDonald’s ice cream cone that was slowly melting in the city heat and copy that encouraged passersby to spin a giant fan to cool down the ice cream and stop it from melting. McDonald’s representatives were also walking around encouraging passersby to spin the fan.
To spin the fan, passersby were instructed to go to a microsite on their smartphones where they were able to control the fan by spinning a mini replica fan that appeared on their phones. Doing so also enabled them to download a coupon that could be redeemed at a nearby location. The more people that interacted with the microsite, the faster the fan would spin.
The McDonald’s Save the Sundae Cone campaign was run as an entry for Moving Wall’s Moving Minds Challenge, which was a competition held to coincide with Moving Wall’s new giant LED screen in Kuala Lumpur. The challenge was to showcase the interactive possibilities of the screen, which had a broadband Internet connection, as well as other instruments such as cameras and Kinect.
Interactive Content Needs Real-time Data Streams
To build an interactive application that enables users to engage with the digital billboard in real time, McDonald’s needed a fast, reliable, and scalable real time network to stream data between the user’s application and the digital billboard. Their goal was to get users in the public shopping centre to look up and spend at least a minute engaging with the campaign. The real time network needed to be able to handle hundreds of users simultaneously, and with such a large audience, 100% uptime was vital for the campaign.
Streaming Data to the Digital Billboard in Real-time
McDonald’s used PubNub Data Streams to stream the data generated by the spinning action on the browser endpoints to the primary Flash application, which streamed the content to display on the digital billboard. Data from multiple simultaneous participants were integrated at the primary endpoint so that the fan appeared to be more easily spun when there were more users involved and vice versa. In the other direction, they broadcast the application state (i.e. the temperature information) from the primary to the user’s browsers and displayed it on the user interface. They then broadcast the command to trigger a surprise reward voucher to everyone who participated to save the sundae cone.
Accurate Analytics of Usage in Realtime
Administratively, McDonald’s used PubNub to transmit usage information to a web-based management console, which they used to track statistics like the number of participants and active vouchers. Because they didn’t have direct access to the computer running the billboard application, once it was installed, they also implemented a number of remote control commands using PubNub so that they could manage the application settings during run-time.
The Value of PubNub Data Streams
PubNub was a key infrastructure component in the Save the Sundae campaign and was used in a variety of different use cases. The reliable and low latency real time data streaming that PubNub offers was essential for the project as a whole. With a tight real time loop, participants, the app, and the digital billboard were all updated in real time to mimic real life interaction.
Overall, the value to four key areas of the campaign:
- Ease of Implementation: PubNub’s ease of implementation, clear documentation and tutorials and debugging tool made it easy for the development team to implement PubNub, and since all the features needed were available, Arc was able to create both projects simultaneously within two weeks.
- Short Development Time: The short development time and limited airtime they had (48 hours per campaign, over 2 weeks) also meant that it wasn’t worth the effort to build out their own real time infrastructure.
- Low Latency: The low latency communications, and the capability to send one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-one messages were the key functionality made the campaigns successful and ensured a tight real time interactive loop between users and the digital billboard.
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