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Innovative Marketing Strategies Connect People with Government Services

By Kathy Millar

McDonald’s is serving up a lot more than Big Macs these days. Parents and children who line up for Happy Meals are leaving with companion booklets packed with health and safety tips from the U.S. government. Patrons who decide to eat in instead of getting their meals "to go" may also notice something new -- McDonald’s trayliners that list critical telephone numbers and websites for easy access to basic government services.

Sample Trayliner Tips:

HEALTHY WINTERS — It’s always the season to fight off illnesses before they start. Call the National Immunization Hotline at 800-232-2522 (English) or 800-232-0233 (Espanol) to ask about immunizations and side effects and request free immunization schedules. You can also find places to get free immunizations. Or visit this website.

INFORMATION CORNUCOPIA — Winter is a great time to read some of the Consumer Information Center’s hundreds of free publications. Topics include parenting, learning, children, and much more. To request a free catalog, call 888-878-3256, or visit this site:

This information has been brought to McDonald’s customers via an exciting new collaboration between the Vice President’s National Partnership for Reinventing Government and a strategic marketing firm called Imagitas, which specializes in creating marketing efforts that build on the best qualities of public-private sector relationships.

Movers Guide for the Postal Service

One of the first campaigns undertaken by Imagitas resulted in a new, comprehensive Mover’s Guide for the U.S. Postal Service. The new Guide not only contains a revised copy of an unassuming change of address form USPS developed many years ago, but loads of valuable information as well. The Guide, along with a companion Welcome Kit, offer tips on how to move, motor and voter registration in a new community, schools, advice on moving services and all the telephone numbers you realize you need only after everything you own is packed in unmarked boxes and already on the truck. The publications also point you to a MoversNet™ website that offers customers a chance to undertake your "virtual move" long before you actually get started. The site contains all the hardcopy information available in the Guide -- handy if you tend to misplace the information during a move.

The Imagitas-USPS National Partnership was so successful, and received such high praise from customers, that the corporate/government team was soon singled out for a prestigious Hammer Award from officials at the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, who commended the firm for supporting the government’s efforts to deliver better service to its customers.

More Booklets from Other Agencies Followed

Soon after, Imagitas teamed up with a host of other agencies like the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration, the Department of Education and the Center for Disease Control, and together produced a variety of booklets on child health and safety that McDonald’s agreed to attach to every Happy Meals bag. Again, a huge success.

Follow-up surveys by independent research firms confirmed that safety tips from the Department of Transportation had resulted in a 11 percent increase among those surveyed in the use of safety belts and an 7 percent increase among parents who said they intended to use safety belts and booster seats to ensure the safety of their children while traveling. Survey results also confirmed that parents of small children had clearly appreciated and taken to heart other advice contained in the booklets.

Officials at the National Partnership for Reinventing Government had been looking for ways to promote the information recently incorporated into the government’s new "Blue Pages" -- a compendium of the best telephone numbers to call for hundreds of basic government services and questions (My elderly aunt can’t get to the passport office in person to fill out the application and we’re scheduled to leave in less than two weeks!). The new directory had been a real success -- lauded in a speech delivered by Vice President Gore and praised throughout the government. The challenge now was to get it out to as many Americans as possible.

Turning to Trayliners

NPR turned to Imagitas, hoping to repeat the success so many agencies had realized with the McDonald’s Happy Meals campaign. Imagitas, however, was ready to try something new. The firm had learned of a sweepstakes campaign that had made contest applications available to the public via a number of vehicles, including an application form on a McDonald’s trayliner. To their amazement, 20 percent of the people who’d filled out the sweepstakes application had used the version printed on the trayliner -- as opposed to the electronic version available on the Internet. So much for high-tech.

Imagitas quickly brokered a National Partnership between NPR and McDonald’s. It called for the production of 3.5 million trayliners, subsidized by retail advertisers and containing telephone numbers and URLs customers could use for instant access to information about critical government services -- health, safety, education, social security, taxes, motor and voter registration, student loans and children’s health insurance.

Every one of those 3.5 million trayliners has gone out to a McDonald’s franchisee -- how many have made their way into America’s homes and onto our refrigerators is another story. But if just 20 percent of those 3.5 million trayliners generate 700,000 contacts with government agencies that end up delivering better service in better ways to 350,000 American households, NPR is ready to call what it believes is an "everybody is a winner" sweepstakes a genuine success.

For More Information

Contact Michael Messinger at

About the Author

Kathleen Millar is a speechwriter at the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR), representing the U.S. Customs Service, Department of the Treasury. You may contact her in D.C. at (202) 694-0105 or You may also reach her at the telecenter near her home at (304) 728-3051, ext. 255 or

January 2000