Cannes Lions winner: Wendy’s wins social top prize for ‘Keeping Fortnite Fresh’ campaign

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Wendy’s scooped the Social & Influencer Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions with its “Keeping Fortnite Fresh” game, demonstrating the evils of frozen beef. This case study looks at how the US fast food chain helped win the top social prize at Cannes 2019.


Case study summary

• Wendy's used a new game mode on Fortnite to reach players on the world's biggest online game, pitting 'pizza against burger'
• Agency created a digital avatar that looked like Wendy’s own mascot, who 'declared war on frozen beef' in the game
• The avatar targeted 'freezers rather than players in the game, streamed on Twitch where millions could watch
• Eventually, the game’s developers swapped out all of the freezers with facilities for fresh burgers.
• Campaign generated a 119% increase in social mentions and 1.5 million minutes of Twitch viewing

The challenge

VMLY&R wanted to reach gamers through the biggest game in the world - Fortnite, a cultural phenomenon. Brands are either left tweeting about it from the sidelines or paying big bucks for in-game sponsorships.

So when Fortnite announced a new game mode called Food Fight, pitting Team Burger against Team Pizza, Wendy's found an organic way in.

The solution

This campaign by VMLY&R rode on the popularity of video game Fortnite, embedding Wendy’s into the game play to spread a message about the evils of frozen beef.

VMLY&R created a digital avatar in the hit multiplayer battle royale videogame that looked suspiciously like Wendy’s own namesake. This red-hooded character showed up in the game and promptly started to ignore all of the other players, typically the main targets.

Instead, she entered burger joints inside the game’s unpopulated cityscape, located the freezers and destroyed them. Wendy’s, after all, never uses frozen beef. This destructive escapade was streamed on Twitch where millions could watch, and the community joined in the rampage with glee. Eventually, the game’s developers swapped out all of the freezers with facilities for fresh burgers.

The results

Overall, the campaign generated a 119% increase in social media mentions and 1.5 million minutes of Twitch viewing as the avatar destroyed a total of 752 freezers in the game.

“There’s so much to love about this—a brand jumping into a new form of social that Fortnite represents,” says Social & Influencer Jury Chair PJ Pereira, co-founder and creative chairman at Pereira & O'Dell. “There’s the mischievousness of this, the nimbleness of going there and figuring out the Little Red Riding Hood character looks just like their main character.”

But what ultimately caused the jury to choose Wendy’s over Nike (to which they awarded two Gold Lions in this category) was what it promised might come afterward. “It was setting up a new trend instead of being the apex of a previous trend,” Pereira says. “What Nike did with ‘Dream Crazy’ is possibly the best example of purpose-driven marketing ever done. But I don’t think that Cannes is necessarily about ‘What is the best representation of a trend?’ Cannes should also be about what the next trend should be.”

The decision was a difficult one, though. “We clearly came here with the world looking at us thinking ‘Dream Crazy’ was going to win the Grand Prix. And honestly, I think we all thought that was going to happen,” Pereira admits. “But Wendy’s showed something that made us wonder, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, that we could go back and say, ‘Maybe it started here.’”

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