PRWeek Awards - Crisis or Issues Management Campaign of the Year

Winner

MWWGroup and McDonald’s Tri-State Area Restaurants: Lost in Translation: Increasing Sales Through a Major Crisis

When McDonald’s erected a Spanish-language billboard on the Hackensack-Bogota border in...

Winner

MWWGroup and McDonald’s Tri-State Area Restaurants: Lost in Translation: Increasing Sales Through a Major Crisis

When McDonald’s erected a Spanish-language billboard on the Hackensack-Bogota border in New Jersey touting the restaurant’s new iced coffee, the company never dreamed that an intense local controversy would be the result. However, Bogota Mayor Steven Lonegan seized on the billboard to charge McDonald’s with racism, saying the company assumed local Latinos didn’t speak English.

MWW Group stepped in on behalf of McDonald’s, working with the company’s US communications team, as well as the fast-food giant’s New York tri-state marketing manager to reach out to regional media outlets to ensure that the company’s side of the story was being well-represented during the political outcry.

The firm’s research revealed several incriminating facts about Lonegan, the company’s accuser. For instance, he himself had distributed Spanish-language campaign materials in the past, and his affiliation with the Republican Party did not endear him to the local Latino community, most of whom were Democrats.

MWW worked to prepare restaurant managers for the ensuing media interest. The agency also saw to it that media coverage represented the company’s positive history of multicultural programs, including extensive annual scholarship grants to Hispanic students.

As a result of MWW’s work, the crisis was averted and the company received a generally positive portrayal in the media outlets that covered the controversy. A total of 12 million positive media impressions resulted from the team’s campaign.

And, as an unexpected but appreciated bonus, McDonald’s iced coffee sales were up 22% in the New York Metro area, a boost that the company attributed directly to the positive media coverage, since there was no ad campaign going on at the time.

Judges admired MWW’s work because it succeeded in effectively reaching its client’s target consumer, and it was well-executed throughout. They noted that the agency took a risk by diving head-first into a sensitive cultural debate, but that risk paid off for McDonald’s in the end.

Although the scale of the campaign was relatively small, the fact that MWW prevented it from snowballing into a national controversy also won points from the judges.

Honorable Mention

Chevron: Chevron’s Media Relations Campaign to Address Public Concerns About High Gasoline Prices and Energy Company Profits

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and other storms in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, damage to oil and natural gas facilities was a factor in driving gasoline prices higher in the US. With consumers and politicians angry about record industry profits at the same time as high prices, Chevron’s media relations team launched a public education campaign designed to explain their complex industry to lawmakers and consumers across the country, and to increase public understanding of energy markets that would make politicians less likely to pass laws targeting the company’s profits. Chevron devised a “Follow the Barrel” storyline that tracked the life of oil and its resulting products. The subsequent publicity resulted in front-page stories in the nation’s top papers, increased CEO visibility, and 100 million total impressions. Judges noted Chevron’s “bold approach” to addressing such a contentious issue.

Finalists 2007



  • Chevron: Chevron’s Media Relations Campaign to Address Public Concerns about High Gasoline Prices and Energy Company Profits

  • Edelman and the American Beverage Association: Protecting an Industry Under Attack

  • GYMR PR and Heart Rhythm Society: Heart Rhythm Society Sets the Pace

  • MWW Group and McDonald’s Tri-State Area Restaurants: Lost in Translation: Increasing Sales Through a Major Crisis

  • Porter Novelli and Procter & Gamble: Folgers – A Response in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina


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