Cannes Lions

MacDonalds Sustainable Swimsuits

VIRTUE AMSTERDAM / McDonald's / 2020

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In line with McDonald's ambitious sustainability strategy they removed plastic straws from their supply chain in Austria in the summer of 2020, and switched to more sustainable materials and wanted the world to take notice. But getting the world excited about this ‘boring’ yet impactful change is easier said than done.

McDonald's asked us to get their audience and the world excited about their sustainability efforts and - amidst a raging pandemic - build a bit of brandlove in the process. With only 55K including media we knew we needed an idea that had earned media potential built into it.

Changing your plastic straws in all 196 Austrian restaurants meant that they had a surplus of straws left and wanted to make sure nothing was wasted. So whatever we did to excite their audience, it needed to put these straws to good use.


Lots of plastic straws finish their lifescycle in the ocean, with the switch to paper ones McDonald's broke this cycle. However taking them out of their supply chain did mean they had a surpluss in plastic straws on their hands.

In an effort to make sure nothing went to waste, and to be able to share the news around this ‘boring’ yet impactful change with the world, we created McDonald's first sustainable swimwear line. In collaboration with sustainable, Austrian, swimwear brand Poleit and Studio Furore we created an upcycled swimwear line made from the surplus plastic straws and waste reclaimed from the ocean.

We translated the recognisable straw designs into a limited edition one-piece women’s suit and men’s swim shorts that were raffled off online. This way we ensured that if any of these straws would end up in the ocean, they will come straight back out.


Sustainability is a key driver for McDonald's young audience. The sheer scale of McDonald's make that small changes make a lot of impact, but getting people to pay attention to these 'dry & boring' efforts. Especially when you're in the middle of a pandemic and living in and out of lockdowns.

We tapped into the young audience's appetite for sustainability and being able to go outside again, by upcycling their plastic straws into a swimwear line, perfectly on time for the summer lockdown-release. After being stuck at home for months, our audience was looking to explore the outside again and find ways to connect with friends physically in places like parks and lakes. And what better to wear to a summer lake party than a swimsuit that matches your snacks.

We tapped into a cultural tension to get people excited about replacing plastic straws.


In order to ensure the quality of the swimwear line we used the straw surplus from McDonald's across the country and mixed it with plastic waste reclaimed from the ocean. The 200 swimsuits were raffled off on their Facebook page using a simple tag and comment activation and in the McDonald's app with simple mini games.

We launched the swimwear line right when the country was coming out of lockdown and summer had started. This created great cultural momentum that their audience and the world talking about McDonald's sustainability efforts.

With little budget we create a suite of photography assets that we used in our Press release and on our social media channels to get the world talking. Without any media placement, we got the country and beyond to talk about the work. From Mexico to France and the UK and Germany, the idea captivated many.


By aligning the timing with our audience's hunger for going outside in summer again we struck a cultural nerve which contributed to the heaps of earned media. With 16,527,347 of earned media impressions, it's safe to say the country took notice of McDonald's sustainability efforts. It even travelled far beyond the borders France, Italy, Spain, Mexico or even Russian websites wrote about the swimwear line.

We had no budget to do in depth brand trackers or measure the brand love we built. However the warm responses on McDonald's social channels, the engagement in the app and the amount of free publicity tell us we conquered the hearts of many.

By translating their sustainability strategy into a cultural product we found a way to translate a 'boring' change like swapping straws, into a culturally relevant product and narrative that excited their audience.