Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bling for the King?

Can Burger King get its funk groove on, even with Diddy in the house?

The quick-service chain has contracted the one-time Puff Daddy as a “change agent” who can get the chain some street creds with the iTunes generation. The first step is the association of BK with the rap star on a page of, as if the King and Diddy hang together all the time. A video clip on the new Google holding shows the entertainer ordering a Whopper (written all in lowercase for added coolness) and explaining why he chose BK as a new collaborator. He’ll also star in an ad spot on that old-media staple, TV.

What either partner has yet to explain is the “consulting on relevant entertainment and marketing talent” piece of the deal. BK stresses that provision, and notes the deal is “multi-year,” but provides little detail. Is the burger chain looking to sign other stars for promotional gigs? Is it scrapping the hold-the-pickle-hold-the-lettuce schtick to become the sort of place where teens might skateboard in for the newest downloads and DVD? Will it sell the music and movies, as it’s already doing with its XBOX games, or just give it away to push more Whoppers—sorry, that’s whoppers, dog.

But while the King and Diddy are out clubbing, McDonald’s is already seeing more Big Macs slide across the counter because of its new entertainment initiative. Seventeen percent more, according to the franchisee of the test site. The m-Venue service, currently available just in that lone Schaumburg, Ill., unit, allows patrons to play songs, music videos or movie previews—all from Sony’s entertainment holdings—on any of 10 flat-screen TVs within the restaurant. They send their request via the ether, via either a text-message, a wireless laptop, or a web-enabled phone.

Right now, the entertainment is free. But the company supplying some of the equipment says a digital store is already part of the plan. At that stage, customers can buy the music or videos and download them to their wireless toys. There was no indication of how much the McDonald’s unit might collect from a sale.

That company, Akoo International, says McDonald’s units throughout the greater Chicago area will be retrofitted with m-Venue by year’s end, but the chain itself has not issued an announcement or other statement.

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