Cannes Lions

Spicy Profile Pics

VMLY&R, Kansas City / WENDY'S / 2021


2 Shortlisted
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For the first time in years, Wendy’s decided to update its signature 4 for $4 value meal (for the uninitiated: a sandwich, fries, chicken nuggets, and drink for $4), introducing a new spicy chicken sandwich as an option. We were tasked with generating attention on the 4 for $4’s new look before paid media began.

Attention? In this economy? Fast food value meals aren’t the sexiest things to talk about; value messaging is typically highly rational and price-oriented, relying on media spend and repetition to be effective. We needed to find a way to capture people’s attention and get them excited about the new 4 for $4. The usual product and price promotion messaging would not cut it. How could we get people to pay attention to us and notice our spicy 4 for $4?


An unspoken but universal rule of life today: When you want attention, you update your photos on social media. The exact reasons we do it vary — status validation, personal and social affirmation, a nice little dose of dopamine — but the common denominator is that if you want attention online, you update your photos.

We wanted attention, and we planned to update Wendy’s social media profile pictures to signal our change to the 4 for $4. We wondered: Could we get other people to update their profile pictures for us as well, turning them into 4 for $4 advertising to generate additional attention for Wendy’s among their own networks?


We turned to our ardent Twitter audience, where Wendy’s and the 4 for $4 have cult followings. They love to interact with our brand on Twitter, so we decided to offer followers the chance to have Wendy’s personally spice up their profile pictures to help launch our updated 4 for $4 meal. People don’t change their Twitter profile pictures often, but we believed people would do it in exchange for the attention from Wendy’s that they ask for every day. In a bit of irony, we planned to earn attention for our new 4 for $4 by fulfilling others’ attention-seeking behaviors. Attention, everyone.


To promote our new spicy 4 for $4, we tweeted to our Twitter followers our offer to spice up profile pictures. We received thousands of replies. Our designers got to work for an afternoon, hastily (and humorously) editing Wendy’s branding and 4 for $4 items into photos as we received them. We tweeted their new spiced up profile pictures back to them.

It wasn’t long before other brands wanted some attention and asked us to update their profile pictures too. We obliged, inserting our brand and 4 for $4 into their brands, co-opting logos and profile pictures of brands like Microsoft; Toyota; Zaxby’s; Chips Ahoy; and even Stella Artois, the beer brand whose logo is centuries old.

With Spicy Profile Pics, we created a way to exchange attention from Wendy’s Twitter for the opportunity to turn our followers’ and other brands’ profile pictures into a new Wendy’s media placement.


Pictures are worth a thousand words. To Wendy’s, they were worth millions of impressions and a lot of attention, and the creation of a new media space. We reached not only our 3.7 million followers, but also the 33.8 million followers of the many brands whose profile pics we took over, with a 26% average engagement rate (10 times our 2-3% benchmark) for our most replied-to tweet ever.

Spicy Profile Pics kicked off our Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich 4 for $4 launch campaign, which led to a 9% increase in sales of our already popular 4 for $4, making it one of our most successful value promotions of the year. And by year’s end, Wendy’s overtook Burger King to become the No. 2 hamburger QSR chain.

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Still Fresh. Never Frozen.

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Still Fresh. Never Frozen.

2023, WENDY'S

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