Cannes Lions

McDonald's: The BTS Meal



1 Shortlisted Cannes Lions
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This is how an aging brand found lightning in a bottle with youth by turning its restaurants into a cultural event.

For 65 years McDonald’s has been America's brand, it spans generations, ethnicities, and cultures. But by 2020, the qualities that made the brand special turned bland and McDonald’s found itself facing a critical issue - the new generation of multicultural youth had counted them out. While the QSR category was seeing growth with young Black, Hispanic and Asian consumers, McDonald’s was seeing declining sales and penetration. The future, but also the present, of the brand was at stake.

The client brief was: “build the brand and drive traffic with multicultural youth”.

Commercial Objective:

Reverse sales decline and see immediate share growth.

Marketing Objective:

Drive penetration by bringing younger, multicultural, customers to the brand.

Communication Objective:

Build relevance among youth, crucial to the future health of the brand.


It all started with our “Famous Orders” Super Bowl spot and a simple insight: "No matter who you are, we all have a go-to McDonald’s order".

It’s the kind of insight that can help a category leader set themselves apart from everyone else. Because everyone really does have a McDonald’s order.

So in 2020, we took the next step - turning Famous Orders into meals that fans could actually order, starting with Travis Scott. For a brief moment, fans could eat like one of their heroes. It turned going to McDonald’s into a cultural event, bringing youth to the restaurant in droves.

The Travis Scott Meal was a cultural phenomenon, and we followed it up with superstar J. Balvin. How could we possibly follow these huge successes? And how could we continue to separate ourselves from the rest of the category, who were releasing Famous Orders renditions of their own?


To stoke reappraisal with multicultural youth, we wanted to transform an everyday trip to McDonald’s into a one-of-a-kind experience for young tastemakers.

We initially created criteria for selecting partners:

- A legit McDonald’s fan - our audience can easily suss out inauthenticity.

- Big name to create cultural gravity

- Relevant to our audience

Set ingredients for the platform itself:

- Authentic & unique order - announced in a PR-worthy way.

- Coveted content - to fuel the star’s fanbase

- Affordability - a celebrity experience for everyone—especially youth with smaller wallets.

In 2021, behind-the-scenes footage of BTS - the biggest band in the world - eating McDonald’s burgers, McNuggets, and McFlurries galore flooded the internet. They were a perfect fit—iconic global fans with unprecedented scale, all for our first global Famous Order. It just so happened that they were gearing up to release their first single of the year.


With BTS’s global iconicity and upcoming release, we wanted the campaign to be a true intersection of both brands. We shared the pen with BTS, taking a page out of the K-Pop playbook for our global rollout. It was crucial that we understood their cultural codes, and more importantly, their fanbase–ARMY.

We teased the global partnership with a “tour announcement” on both McDonald’s and BTS’ social channels—and BTS had the internet on fire.

The meal was launched in tandem with BTS’ first hit of 2021 (Butter), complete with their favorite Korean sauces - across the world. We even made packaging with a textile that let fans create their own art out of the bags, cups, and boxes that came with the meal.

We sustained momentum by feeding the ARMY with content they could covet and collect: complete with merch, photocards, and easter eggs only they could pick up on.


The BTS launch broke all of our social media records and earned a #1 Trending spot on Twitter. The meal even made Google’s coveted ‘year in review list’. And while the meal itself was exciting, it was the packaging that fans were after. As collecting memorabilia is a huge part of K-pop fan culture, the boxes, cups, and bags brought in new levels of fandom - fans turned them into coveted art (shrines! phone cases! shoes!). They preserved the textile in resin, resold boxes on Ebay. It was even covered in VICE magazine, “The Wildest Ways People Are Preserving Their McDonald’s BTS Meals”.

The meal itself was wildly successful. It drove penetration with all 3 multicultural segments and grew 18-24 segment by 8.4%. It brought in $100M incremental sales, and did so profitably: for every $1 spent on marketing, ROMI was $8.60 (far exceeding average ROMI of $2.71).

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