How programmatic got Millennials fired up for KFC's Hot and Cheezy Burger

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It's been difficult for KFC to get Millennials to try their burgers with McDonald's dominating brand love. Most KFC burger innovations don't grab their attention and the brand just simply wasn't 'I'm lovin’ it' hip.

It was also difficult garnering interest with this target - they hardly notice old school advertising. They are a generation who are native to the digital world and hence, almost always, multi-screen, multi-task and multi-do, resulting in super-short attention spans. So that means two things:

1. If you message doesn't fit into the context of what they are doing right then and there, out it goes. 2. If your message isn't interesting (especially in the context of the things they like), out it goes too.

So what could KFC say and how to say it to make them take notice and remember?


Inspired partly by the product, partly by Millennial humour, the brand created a hot burger that spouted cheesy lines. This is very much in line with what they like in the age of Tinder and Snapchat. But spouting cheesy lines isn't enough. No matter how good a creative is, it will only bear great results if it is presented in the right context.

People remember things when it means something to them. Hence the saying ‘context is king'; if you are relevant to a person at that instant, especially when attention spans are so low, they will remember you. It's as simple as that. Programmatic technology exists that enables distribution of content in a relevant manner but UM wanted to use this technology also to create brand messaging. So it looked towards Google to help steer its creativity.

The big idea was, a talking burger sprouting cheesy lines inspired by what Millennials were searching for on YouTube. Data was taken from Google to develop video ads and then media was bought in such a way, that a 'related' ad is served just before he lands on video. I.e. if he is about to see a football video, he’d be served an ad that talks about football, if he is about to see a fashion video than he'd see an ad that uses fashion. This was truly a pioneering effort where UM used real-time data to both create and distribute content to the audiences.


The agency created about 10-20 micro-videos (15s or less) a week to mirror the top 25 trending videos across leading 10 categories viewed on YouTube across languages. By the end of the campaign, there were over 100 videos. The media investment behind a particular video was also automatically tweaked on the basis of how it was received by consumers and removed ones that had low completion rates. The agency also released this campaign as a series of contextual digital mastheads, targeted to Millennials.

Some of the trending samples that inspired the micro-videos were: Adele's Hello, Malaysia's top badminton player Lee Chong Wei playing defending champion Chen Long from China,  dialogues by Southern Indian star Rajinikanth, cute cat videos. When the user is searching or being served their video of choice, they will be surprised to see an ad that talks in the same language as what they are about to watch.

UM also created a Tinder profile for the burger (the dating application popular amongst Millennials). Hot and Cheezy attracted attention by calling out to users to swipe' me right with its infamous cheezy lines. The Tinder matches were called on a date to popular malls in the city where big interactive billboards screens helped the public chat live with the burger. Hot and Cheezy also personally responded with cheezy lines to comments about the new product on Facebook.

The agency then rolled out a press execution, where Hot and Cheezy appeared in various sections of the newspaper with specific lines written specifically for each section namely sports, metro, lifestyle, world news and business updates.


Viewing completion rates are touching 35% (highest ever for Malaysian pre-roll ads). Average view for all the videos is around 30%. These are strong results given that average view rate for any pre roll campaign in Malaysia is only around 17%.

KFC Burger Sales have increased by 16%, week on week immediately after launch of Hot and Cheezy and it's looking like the burger will sell out even before the campaign ends. This has been the best performing burger for KFC in many years.  

Interestingly within two weeks of the launch of this particular campaign, Google asked Hot & Cheezy to be included into its media gallery hall of fame, a repository of campaigns where people come for inspiration.

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