Social and Influencer > Social Insights & Engagement


VMLY&R, Kansas city / WENDY'S / 2019


Silver Cannes Lions
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Younger consumers are revolutionizing the ways we produce, consume and think about entertainment. Through the online streaming platform Twitch, Fortnite has grown from a video game to the cultural hub for 12- to 24-year-olds and a new form of interactive entertainment altogether.

This audience is creating entertainment for and by itself. It is adept at avoiding traditional advertising and highly skeptical of brands entering its cultural space. This poses a challenge to Wendy's and all brands in the quick service restaurant category, because the younger consumer is eating in the QSR category most often. How could we reach this important audience that doesn't want to be reached?

Our objective was to move beyond merely reaching the audience; we wanted to build relevance on its terms. We would meet our audience where they are and entertain them on their own turf.

Describe the creative idea

To reach our audience in a way distinct from our category competitors, we decided to go beyond reaching them as the brand advertiser they’d expect. So we entered the world of Fortnite as a player — as co-creator of culture, a gamer and an entertainer. Other brands have attempted to reach this audience by placing in-game logos or billboards, but we went beyond traditional advertisement. Rather than pay our way in, we decided to play our way in.

We blurred the line between brand and influencer, playing Fortnite as Wendy’s and streaming it live on Twitch to immerse ourselves in this audience’s world as both player and brand.

In short, our idea was to use the game Fortnite to promote Wendy’s brand messaging.

Describe the strategy

When Fortnite introduced a new game mode called Food Fight, we saw an organic way to insert Wendy’s into the game’s story and meet our audience in its world. In this game mode, proponents of the Fortnite universe’s two restaurants — Durr Burger and Pizza Pit — could represent Team Burger or Team Pizza in battle. We discovered that Durr Burger stored its virtual beef in freezers, a move directly against the fresh, never frozen beef for which Wendy’s is famous.

The game’s objective is to eliminate other players and be the last person standing. We decided to enter the fight on the side of Team Pizza, making it our objective to eliminate all burger freezers from the game.

We played the game as Wendy’s, using it as a vehicle for our core brand messaging and virtually demonstrating our commitment to our core differentiator: fresh, never frozen beef.

Describe the execution

On Nov. 29, 2018, we organically tweeted that we would be streaming Fortnite live on Twitch. We put down the keyboard, picked up a controller and began playing the game with our fans. In doing so, we took Wendy’s to a platform where our audience was — and where no brand had gone before.

We played as a character with red hair and pigtails (just like our logo), and for nine hours, we streamed our destruction of any and all beef-laden freezers.

We were playing the game wrong by only destroying virtual freezers and not other gamers, so naturally other gamers and Twitch streamers noticed. Soon players and top gaming influencers like KingRichard joined our mission and began to destroy freezers with us. We changed the way the game was played as our audience watched and joined in to help us spread our message that fresh beef beats frozen beef.

List the results

Wendy’s time destroying in-game freezers amassed more than 1.5 million minutes watched. Our Twitch stream was viewed live more than a quarter of a million times. Viewers shared our stream, and mentions of Wendy’s increased by 119% across social platforms.

Wendy’s changed the way that the most popular video game is played and set the foundation for brands to authentically engage this audience on it (for better or worse). Even Twitch helped spread our mission by creating a highlight reel of Wendy’s destroying Fortnite freezers. And soon tens of thousands of gamers joined our mission and destroyed burger freezers in their own gameplay and documented it in user-generated content.

Most importantly, by playing the game with our audience and making such a splash, we changed it permanently. Game developers removed the in-game burger freezers from Fortnite, thus ridding this (virtual) world of frozen beef.

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