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From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

The Adult Happy Meal

Winner in Multi-Platform Campaign, User-Generated Content, Short Form Video

Gold Honor in Restaurants

Silver Honor in Launch Campaign

Audience Honor in User-Generated Content

Entered in Insights & Trends


McDonald’s is a brand that needs no introduction. However, its ubiquity and familiarity had left it in a place where it was well known but not well loved. By 2020, the qualities that made the brand special had turned bland and McDonald’s found itself facing a critical issue - the new generation of multicultural young adults had counted them out. While the QSR category was seeing growth with young Black, Hispanic and Asian consumers, McDonald’s was seeing declining sales and penetration.

Then came our Famous Orders campaigns, which brought young adults to the restaurants in droves. This platform brought the swagger back to the brand, and created a new generation of fans. As we moved into 2022, we wanted to build on that equity and continue our cultural proliferation, but with new creative devices. 

Our challenge was to create an unmissable event that made young adults talk about and visit McDonald’s more. We needed to drive urgency, and transactions too. 

Our objectives were as follows:

Commercial Objective:

Drive immediate sales and share with multicultural young adults. And do it profitably. 

Marketing Objective:

Grow penetration with this younger audience.

Communication Objective:

Drive relevance & conversation amongst this audience.

Strategy and Execution

“One day you ordered a Happy Meal for the last time and you didn't even know it.” This tweet sparked inspiration for creating Happy Meals for adults. 

The idea was simple: reawaken the childlike joy once found in a happy meal. But to tap into that nostalgic Happy Meal feeling, we needed to launch far more than just a meal. The power of the Happy Meal experience was that it democratized access to things kids love. From beanie babies to Disney films, everyone was able to get a piece of something special. To elevate this into an joyful adult experience, we wanted to democratize something that young adults covet: art, fashion, etc. An opportunity for us to make the inaccessible accessible. 

Enter: Cactus Plant Flea Market. A beloved streetwear brand whose founder is known for their anonymity. Through hand-drawn elements, vibrant colors, and bold designs, they exude the vibrant positivity and infectious optimism that we see in culture today. But as widely loved as they are, few fans are lucky enough to get their hands on CPFM’s actual product. Their fandom, scarcity, and love for the McDonald’s brand made them the perfect partner to work with. For the first time ever, fans in Idaho and New York alike, could get a piece of CPFM. 

With a partner in lock, we sought to bring the Happy Meal experience to life. We shared the pen throughout the process, giving CPFM the entire brand as a canvas. Our goal was to push McDonald’s and Cactus Plant Flea Market to new territories that were still authentic to each party. For McDonald’s, this meant getting comfortable with CPFM reimagining everything that’s significant to the brand. For CPFM, this meant putting their name in the mainstream category in a way that didn’t dilute their brand for streetwear enthusiasts, or look like an obvious money grab. 

Inspired by CPFM’s memories of the McDonald’s drive-thru, we brought to life an entirely new world that was true alchemy of the brands. The meal itself contained a first-of-its-kind artistic Happy Meal box, complete with meal options and 1-of-4 collectible figurines inside: recreations of the beloved McDonaldland characters in CPFM’s aesthetic, as well as their mascot Cactus Buddy. 

To light the fuse, we teased the collaboration by reimagining the nostalgic Ronald McDonald bench featuring both Ronald and Cactus Buddy, and dropped it in locations across NYC. The internet caught fire, with fans guessing what all this collaboration could entail. Even before the box hit restaurants – on the day of our announcement - Cactus Plant Flea Market trended #1 on Google, and also trended throughout the day on Twitter.

Capitalizing on buzz, we launched paid media to drive education on the program details as we built hype towards launch. And on launch day, our owned channels, digital and physical, were just as important. Everything from our TVC, to social, to the app, to kiosks and POS posters exuded CPFM x McDonald’s artistry.


The results were immediately astounding. Adults from coast to coast flooded McDonald’s to get their hands on the adult Happy Meal. The high demand caused a month’s worth of supply to sell out within 2 weeks. We blew our objectives out of the water: 

Commercial Objective: Drive immediate sales and share with multicultural young adults. And do it profitably.

Marketing Objective: Grow penetration with this younger audience.

Communication Objective: Drive relevance & conversation amongst this audience. 

We created a cultural event, igniting a mass participation moment across the country. And, we did it all with no new ingredients. The Adult Happy Meal required no new food ingredients, but elegantly connected our core menu items with a universal nostalgic feeling.


Video for The Adult Happy Meal

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Wieden+Kennedy New York, McDonald's


Entry Credits