- A&W Restaurants today (Dec. 2) launched "Anti-Celeb Meals," a national campaign that trolls popular celebrity collaborations in the fast food space, per details emailed to Marketing Dive. The brand-awareness effort doubles as a recruitment strategy amid an industry-wide labor shortage.
- Instead of big-name artists, four A&W employees star in the campaign as "locally sourced celebrities," posing alongside their meals in photographs that mimic those of McDonald's "Famous Orders" platform. The campaign, created with agency partner Coomer, will also send the chain's 625 locations comprehensive hiring packages featuring various assets, such as 3D employee-meal box yard signs and new uniform t-shirts, that will be customizable to each specific location.
- In an industry with big brands that wield powerful marketing budgets, fast food chain A&W is hoping to stand out with a cheeky hiring effort that spotlights employees, a departure from its usual focus on menu items.
A&W's new campaign pokes fun at its fast food competitors by flipping the script on popular celebrity collaborations. Numerous QSRs, including McDonald's, Burger King and Popeyes, have launched celebrity menus to boost mobile growth and foster brand loyalty. With its "Anti-Celeb Meals," A&W is clearly expressing its stance on these activations — which have seen mixed reviews from consumers — though in a way that comes off as mostly playful. The chain also worked closely with Coomer on uncovering ways to meet the local needs of franchisees and on making assets customizable.
Four A&W employees from central Kentucky — Gerald, Hannah, Raider and Jada — will headline the campaign as "locally sourced celebrities," with photography juxtaposing them alongside McDonald's tie-ups with Travis Scott, Saweetie and J Balvin. The names of their meals also mimic Famous Orders, with titles like "The Gerald Meal" and "The Hannah Meal." The photos will be formatted for local restaurants' respective digital menu boards, in-store TVs and social channels.
Trolling competitors is a marketing tactic that fast food chains sometimes employ to gain public favor over rivals. If done well, the technique can also offer potential for online virality. Burger King, for example, trolled Chick-Fil-A in June by pairing a donation pledge to the Human Rights Campaign with each Ch'King menu item sold during Pride Month, "even on Sundays," when Chick-Fil-A — which has a history of donating to anti-LGBTQ charities — is closed.
Beyond trolling, the campaign serves an important purpose: to recruit employees amid a labor shortage affecting the fast food industry. In July, 75% of restaurant operators said employee recruiting and retention was their top challenge, up from 8% in January, per a National Restaurant Association survey cited by the brand. These issues have been exacerbated by national labor strikes from fast food employees demanding higher pay.
Hoping to show potential workers that it cares about its staff, A&W is replacing marketing assets and point-of-place creative typically reserved for menu items with the "Anti-Celeb Meals" campaign. Restaurants will receive comprehensive hiring packages, including a bank of social, digital, in-store and outdoor assets that are customizable to each location and its staff of employees. A&W will also promote the campaign across corporate digital and social channels.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the launch date of A&W's campaign. "Anti-Celeb Meals" kicked off on Dec. 2.