How Wendy’s kept Fortnite fresh by destroying the game's freezers

How Wendy’s kept Fortnite fresh by destroying the game's freezers

The Background

I was recently at one of those advertising industry events where everyone gives themselves a pat on the back and bands about buzzwords like authenticity, trust, woke, storytelling and going viral. 

But then one speaker took to the stage for a quick-fire talk on gaming. Not only was this delivered impeccably, it made a lot of sense – “you don’t make a branded version of The Lord of the Rings so why would you make a branded version of video games?”. 

I’m not going to bore anyone with the stats but, as this superb speaker highlighted to us, more people in the UK play games regularly than use Instagram. 

Games like FIFA, Fortnite, GTA, Overwatch and even The Sims are culturally iconic, so brands need to work with those titles, not emulate them. 

The Big Idea

There are a few campaigns that have positively engaged with the massive gaming community, Fortnite Galaxy Skin by Samsung being one from Cannes this year that comes to mind. 

This is from Wendy’s, one of the ‘oh-so-hilarious’ US fast food brands known for social media ‘bants’. 

But this is no cringey social media campaign. 

Wendy’s noticed that the new ‘Food Fight’ mode that put Team Burger up against Team Pizza featured one element it couldn’t let slip – Team Burger used freezers for their patties. 

Wendy’s doesn’t do frozen beef – so how does it rid the Fortnite world of this atrocity? 

Kill freezers. 

What They Did

Once Wendy’s had decided all burger freezers must be eliminated it needed to figure out how to do it. 

First off this meant having a character resembling Wendy herself (blue dress, red pigtails) who was then sent into battle, for a real long time, all streamed through gamers’ platform of choice – Twitch. 

That stream galvanised the community, big time Twitch players with audiences into the millions took note and called out Wendy’s for its fresh approach. 

Others joined in, killing freezers not opponents. And those oh-so-witty fast food brands on Twitter? Yeah, you guessed it, they all tried to get involved, giving Wendy’s their respect. 

Rounding off the virtual activism, the game developers of Fortnite removed the freezers from the game. 

The Review

Some cultural phenomena are easily understood for advertisers and marketers, it’s simple to listen to the latest album being talked about or tune into Love Island for a bit. 

Truly understanding how your brand can interact with a game takes that bit more dedication, the team clearly got into the game, picked up a controller or watched some streams on Twitch. 

It’s this sort of insight that makes a campaign relevant, not yet another report about millennial spending habits and their fetish for avocados. 

Execution wise this campaign smashes it – no spend, but hitting the right channels like Twitch, Reddit and Twitter. 

It’s also something you still want to share now even though it happened a while back, it’s just a proper smart campaign you can sum up in an old school 140 character tweet. 

In Hindsight

Was this just timely insight from one of the agency’s team? 

Could this be a little more manufactured than the team let on? 

Either way that’s not an issue, along with any concerns over whether this campaign sold any burgers. 

For a fast food chain directly selling more burgers with each campaign isn’t essential, it’s more about proving the brand’s still relevant and worth considering next time you drive down one of those roads in the US with every fast food chain you can imagine within two blocks. 

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