Advertisers: When McDonald's Discovers a New Medium, You Should, Too

Last Updated May 7, 2010 3:09 PM EDT

If you spend much of your professional life in the social media scene, you know that location-based social is the New Black. Services like Foursquare, a game-cum-social-service where users "check in" from wherever they are -- telling their friends their location -- are all the rage. But, now, location-based has passed a major milestone even before most of us are even dabbling in it: it has caught the eye of McDonald's, which is building a location-based app that will debut when Facebook's location-based status updates launch -- rumored to be later this month. (Picture courtesy of McDonald's.)

The app, which will reportedly be supported on Facebook by a large banner buy, will show a featured product when users check in at McDonald's, per Advertising Age. (Though the story doesn't say, I'm going to assume that there will be something in it for the user if they check in -- a digital coupon perhaps?)

If you're rolling your eyes at what, to many, might seem pretty banal, here's why you shouldn't: advertisers are beyond slow in experimenting with new platforms, so this is unusual, to say the least -- even if the amount of money spent by McDonald's on this will probably be pretty small. Case in point: Anheuser-Busch was once considered positively edgy for advertising on ESPN. Additionally, despite the drift of eyeballs to digital media, online ad budgets still lag; they don't reflect how much of our attention has been diverted from media like TV, where the majority of ad dollars are still spent.

So, when one of the nation's largest advertisers signs on to a concept like location-based social, at a time when it is nascent at best, consider that a sign that, especially if you're in retail, you should be looking at this too. Mobile social is going to ramp up significantly faster as an advertising medium than other platforms have. There are several reasons for this: one, for the first time ever, it's possible to put ad messages in the hands of consumers when and where they are actually shopping; and two, the sexiness, and increasing ubiquity, of smartphones (thank you, Steve Jobs), have probably made the medium feel safe for major advertisers, which is always a big hurdle to jump before the dollars start to flow.

Previous coverage of location-based media at BNET Media: