Cannes Lions

Cyber Search

VMLY&R, Kansas City / WENDY'S / 2020

Presentation Image
Presentation Image
Case Film






Most people make meal decisions less than 10 minutes in advance, so being top of mind is vital for fast food brands. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people had everything but Wendy’s — America’s third most popular hamburger chain — to think about. Sales were down and Wendy’s needed attention. Without a production budget. While everyone was stuck inside.

Wendy’s needed a way to capture consumer attention with a small budget. The brand has a sizable organic Twitter audience of 3.7 million followers, making them a natural fit for the task. Our goal was simple: Create a reason for consumers to engage with the Wendy’s brand online and get them thinking about our food again.


Do you want to play a game? At the time, many of our consumers were stuck at home staring at their screens and mobile devices. With this in mind, our idea was to gamify Wendy’s digital ecosystem, hiding coupon codes for free food across our digital touch points. Cyber Search, as we called it, was on.


Free offers drive attention and sales, and gamification drives engagement. The age-old truth is that people value something more when they have to earn it. To get our Twitter followers to pay attention and engage with us, we had to sweeten the pot — even with a small budget. Wendy’s has a robust digital ecosystem with many touch points to serve as hiding places for coupon codes. If people were home looking at their screens, we wanted them thinking about Wendy’s food and paying attention to our content.


Wendy’s hid 100 coupon codes, ranging from $10 to $1,000, across its digital ecosystem — everywhere from old social posts to the marquee at Wendy’s headquarters on Google Maps to our Twitch streaming channel to the closed captioning in restaurant training videos on YouTube. We even put one in our 100-page tabletop role-playing game Feast of Legends.

We Tweeted hints about each hidden code to our followers from May 4-8, 2020, encouraging them to scour the internet to find them. The game was simple: The first person to find and direct message us each code got the coupon. Within seconds of tweeting each hint, treasure hunters and cyber searchers flooded our direct messages, hoping they were the fastest. For one week, we had our Twitter audience’s focus in real time, with our followers paying rapt attention while they waited for the opportunity to find our next coupon code.


Wendy’s generated engagement and attention to the tune of more than 22,000 direct messages sent to our Twitter account, over 1 million engagements, and 15 million organic impressions. In Cyber Search, we uncovered a way to gamify attention to both our’s and our audience’s benefit.

Similar Campaigns

12 items

Lights. Camera. Wendy.

VMLY&R, Kansas city

Lights. Camera. Wendy.

2023, WENDY'S

(opens in a new tab)