McDonald's and Disney's Millennium Dreamers
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Holmes Report
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McDonald's and Disney's Millennium Dreamers

McDonald’s and Disney, two of the largest global family brands, created a program as rare as the turning of the Millennium itself called Millennium Dreamers.

Paul Holmes

McDonald’s and Disney, two of the largest global family brands, created a program as rare as the turning of the Millennium itself called Millennium Dreamers.  On the occasion of the new Millennium, the two companies, along with the help of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) set out to find and celebrate the accomplishments of 2,000 young people ages 8-15 from every corner of the globe.  It was to be the most far-reaching recognition program for children ever created.  With many negative stories on children in the media, they sought to identify and recognize children in the world who are making a positive difference in their communities -- and, at the same time, reinforce McDonald’s long-standing heritage of giving back to the communities it serves.  Thus, the Millennium Dreamers program was created – a program only McDonald’s and Disney could do, and Golin/Harris was called to help make it a reality.  

SITUATION ANALYSIS/RESEARCH

Research was important to confirm that a program of this magnitude was never before conducted.  Findings determined that a children’s recognition program had never been done before globally -- and that, although negative stories tend to dominate media coverage there was a great thirst for positive and inspiring stories regarding children, especially related to community involvement.  

PLANNING

Objectives:  

  • Increase consumer awareness of McDonald’s and Disney’s joint commitment to kids and families around the world while providing continuity and focus for the Millennium.   
  • Enlist participation by McDonald’s markets in every country where the company does business.   
  • Capture worldwide, diverse media attention and break through the Millennium clutter.   
  • Enhance the value of the exclusive McDonald’s/Disney partnership both internally and externally.  

Target Audiences:  

  • Young people (ages 8-15) and their parents – primary 
  • Educators, diverse communities, customers, media, McDonald’s system – secondary

STRATEGIC APPROACH

  • Create a joint McDonald’s/Disney global “community event” that is youth-focused and timely.   
  • Provide McDonald’s system with tools to deliver turnkey Millennium program in local markets worldwide with strong restaurant, community and publicity extensions for a simultaneous, global execution.   
  • Deploy broad spectrum of communications channels to maximize program reach and effectiveness.   
  • Leverage the resources of both companies and partner with credible third party partners for optimum impact.  

EXECUTION

For the first time in the alliance history, McDonald’s and Disney corporate and communications professionals joined together on a global initiative.  Participation was secured from nearly 90 countries worldwide.  Each country designated a program facilitator to spearhead the program in their respective countries and helped to form one, unified global team, which created a forum to share ideas, best practices and reinforce program timeline/deadlines.  Not only was the global initiative a first for the alliance, but also a first for the McDonald’s system.  Never before had the company joined together for a simultaneous global program, which brought its challenges (i.e. time differences, cultures, language barriers, media diversity). However, the team worked together to find solutions.  In fact, the first-ever McDonald’s global field guidelines were created as a program “roadmap” and distributed to the field.  

PHASE 1:  SEARCH AND SELECTION -- OCTOBER 1999-FEBRUARY 2000: Program Launch – Satellite Press Conference:  On October 1, 1999, the program launched via a simultaneous global satellite press conference with Jack Greenberg, CEO of McDonald’s Corporation, from Madrid Spain; Michael Eisner, CEO of the Walt Disney Company from Burbank, Calif.; and Federico Mayor, Deputy General of UNESCO from Paris, France.  Additionally, a joint McDonald’s/Disney media event was held the same day in Orlando, Fla., during the Disney Millennium celebration kick-off where McDonald’s and Disney management participated in a live Q&A session with the media and conducted major interviews via phone.  

Third-Party Outreach Efforts:  Key to the success of the program was the unprecedented gathering of 3rd party organizations.   Partner organizations in the U.S. included Girl Scouts, YWCA, NAACP, NEA, National Urban League, National Latino Children’s Institute and Junior Achievement.  Internationally, countries formed partnerships with education ministries, media, community leaders and youth organizations.  These organizations were critical in helping with the nomination distribution process and served as program advocates and spokespeople to the media.  

Nomination/Selection Process:  Nomination forms were distributed through publicity, at participating McDonald’s restaurants, and via McDonald’s and Disney web sites.  Also, an educational program was created to encourage nominations.  The program was sent to teachers nationwide and provided as a template to participating countries for local customization.  An all-inclusive mat release with nomination information and artwork was sent to community newspapers in the U.S.  Panels of expert judges from across the globe selected the children based on the impact of the achievement on the community and beyond, creativity of the achievement and inspirational value to other young people.  Each country conducted its own nomination and selection process.  

PHASE 2:  WORLDWIDE AMBASSADOR ANNOUNCEMENTS -- MARCH-APRIL 2000: On March 21, 2000, the names of the 2,000 Millennium Dreamers were revealed during a special event at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.  Select Millennium Dreamers were on hand to unroll a giant scroll with all names, with help from Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse in their first appearance together at a public venue.  Major national and international media attended the event, hosted by Mrs. Kofi Annan, wife of the Secretary General and representatives from UNESCO, McDonald’s and Disney.  To supplement the announcement event, a full-page ad was placed in USA Today listing the names of all 2,000 Millennium Dreamers.  Markets around the world conducted similar announcement events for their Millennium Dreamers.  The announcement was used to maintain momentum after the kick-off and set the stage for phase three of the program – the global youth summit event.  

PHASE 3:  GLOBAL YOUTH SUMMIT AT THE WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT -- MAY 2000: The 2,000 Millennium Dreamers, their guardians, media and McDonald’s representatives from around the world gathered at The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., for a three-day youth summit to celebrate their accomplishments and to recognize the power of young people changing the world.  A “global village” residence was set up at the summit providing children with a balance of cultural exchanges, learning and fun.  Opening ceremonies included a parade led by Eisner, Greenberg, Mickey and Ronald.  Greenberg also hosted a welcome breakfast for the Millennium Dreamers at the McDonald’s restaurant on Disney property.  At a special recognition ceremony where children received medals for their amazing accomplishments, actor Christopher Reeve gave an inspiring keynote address.  Finally, ABC newscaster Jack Ford moderated a symposium on children and the new Millennium, featuring noted children’s advocates, celebrities and community leaders, along with select Millennium Dreamers.  Throughout the various events at the summit, children enjoyed meeting each other and exchanging stories, email addresses, pins and other trinkets from their respective countries.  

COMPREHENSIVE MEDIA RELATIONS CAMPAIGN: Conducted aggressive, targeted media campaign to place Millennium Dreamers stories in every corner of the globe.  The campaign targeted general business, consumer, kids, education and feature print and broadcast outlets, as well as Hispanic and African-American media.  Templates of press materials and suggested story angles were provided to participating countries for local customization and translation.  We also selected and summarized the top 100 stories overall and pitched stories on specific children/accomplishments. More than 700 media from around the world were on-site at the summit plus dozens of live remotes were conducted on a daily basis.  

The “Oprah Winfrey Show” featured a one-hour show dedicated to key Millennium Dreamers and their accomplishments and Time for Kids featured a special article.  Additionally, we coordinated interviews with McDonald’s management and key trade publications and business outlets throughout the process.  Secured interviews included Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Fox “Cavuto Report,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Restaurants and Institutions, PROMO Magazine, ADWEEK and many more.  Numerous LIVE satellite TV and radio remote interviews were conducted with children each day from the summit event. Other media placements included CNN Showbiz, TV Azteca (Mexico), BBC (UK), Sonntagsblick (Switzerland’s national newspaper), Toronto Sun and Kyodo Newswire (Japan’s primary wire service).  

B-roll/VNR distribution:  Sent B-roll over the satellite after the program was officially launched in October and when the 2,000 children were announced in March from the UN event.   A total of 10 VNRs were sent throughout the May global youth summit event at Walt Disney World to capture the key events/moments for broadcast outlets.  

RESULTS

Global Impact/Systemwide Participation:  The impact of this program transcended all demographic and geographic boundaries, as guardians of the 2,000 children, 700+ media and 100+ McDonald’s representatives speaking 50+ languages from nearly 90 countries around the world gathered at the summit.  For the first time, McDonald’s communications professionals worldwide teamed up, resulting in one of the largest and most far-reaching recognition programs for children ever undertaken.  In addition, McDonald’s was able to communicate unified brand messages and commitment to “giving back” to customers in nearly every community where they do business worldwide.  

Unprecedented Publicity:  The Millennium Dreamers program reached an estimated two billion media impressions worldwide, delivering program messages and McDonald’s/Disney’s commitment to children by recognizing those making a difference in their local communities.  Broadcast coverage and print coverage surpassed all expectations.  And, the legacy lives on as Millennium Dreamers continue to receive media attention today.  

Alliance Enhancement:  The McDonald’s/Disney alliance was elevated to a new level of partnership, proving its ability to positively enhance the two brands and corporate reputations.  It set the stage for future global programs to move beyond Happy Meal and movie promotions.  Breakthrough events like having company icons Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse appear together for the first time in a public venue, company CEOs joining together for events and allowing Ronald McDonald inside a Disney theme park for the first time all add to the evidence of the partnership growth. 
Customer Awareness/Support:  McDonald’s and Disney jointly received praise from participants worldwide for the nature of the program, local market activity efforts, as well as the magnitude of the global youth summit event via cards, letters, emails and phone calls.  Testimonials came from customers of all kinds -- kids, parents, teachers, media and more.  Jack Greenberg has received literally hundreds of thank you notes and gifts from around the world.  

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