Contenders at Cannes 2024: No Smiles – McDonald’s Japan | TBWA Hakuhodo

Leading up to Cannes Lions, we showcase creative campaigns submitted from across the Asia Pacific.

Campaign Background

TBWA Hakuhodo

3,000 shops nationwide. 100 million visitors every month. Behind this mega-business was Gen Z, which accounted for about 60% of the total workforce.

However, with Japan’s birthrate declining, the number of crew members is decreasing year by year and the company suffered from a chronic shortage of staff.

McDonald’s ‘zero yen smile’, which it had upheld since its inception, was a symbol of hospitality for customers, but it was becoming a barrier for those considering part-time work. It went against the values of Gen Z, who wanted to live life on their own terms.

Idea

McDonald’s, which had always prioritized smiles, delivered a message to Generation Z through music: it’s okay not to force a smile and to work authentically. The music resonated with many users and spread rapidly.

Change in Hiring Policy: “Work with your smile” to “Work with your style”. Before creating the song, McDonald’s, known for providing smiles, thoroughly reviewed all its hiring criteria and manuals to create a work environment that is more accommodating for Generation Z.

Collaboration: When a Non-Smiling Idol Met McDonald’s ano, an artist immensely popular among Generation Z, was cast for the collaboration. She is known for her authentic lifestyle as a “non-smiling idol.”

“McDonald’s ‘zero yen smile’, which it had upheld since its inception, was a symbol of hospitality for customers, but it was becoming a barrier for those considering part-time work.”

She also had a true story of being fired from a part-time job for not being able to smile effectively.

Impact & Results

MV views count over 36M, which equates to Gen Z in Japan having seen the video more than twice. Job applications, which are the biggest goal of McDonald’s Japan, hit a record high.

They also revamped the manual about ‘smile,’ which had been untouched for 50 years. The song became a symbol of the ‘BE YOURSELF’ movement, followed by other companies across Japan.


The campaign recently won a Grand Award at NY Festivals. Read more here.

The Work

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