We've all seen the many fast food chains jumping on the celeb bandwagon – McDonald’s & Travis Scott, Popeyes & Megan Thee Stallion, Tim Hortons & Bieber. The list goes on.
But amid the industry's labor shortage, A&W Restaurants is flipping the script on the celeb trend in a new marketing campaign that celebrates the true stars of A&W: real-life employees.
“Anti-Celeb Meals” is a national employee recruitment/retention and brand awareness campaign that playfully pokes at other fast-food chains' celeb marketing, putting the spotlight where it really belongs: on the people who keep A&W running.
Four A&W employees based in Central Kentucky stores – Gerald, Hannah, Raider, Jada – are the “locally sourced celebrities” in the campaign. The photography juxtaposes the employees and their personalized A&W meals alongside another fast food chain’s celebrity tie-ups with Travis Scott, Saweetie and J Balvin. This national campaign was initiated from A&W’s field marketing team, which is unusual, as A&W typically focuses its campaigns on menu items. But hiring is one of the main issues their restaurants are currently facing. The field marketing team requested a “Comprehensive Hiring Package for Franchisees” to be available across all 625 locations.
In a National Restaurant Association survey conducted in July 2021, 75% of restaurant operators said that recruiting and retaining employees was their top challenge – compared to 8% in January 2021.
A&W and its creative agency partner, Coomer, wanted to create a “now hiring” campaign that didn’t look like everyone else’s and would stand out in a crowded market, with pieces that their restaurant owners could customize. As part of the campaign, A&W franchises are being equipped with a comprehensive hiring package with a bank of social, digital, in-store and outdoor assets – including 3D employee-meal box yard signs and new uniform t-shirts. All pieces are customizable to each store location and names of local employees.
In stores, the “Anti-Celeb Meal” campaign will replace marketing assets and point-of-purchase creative that’s normally reserved for their A&W Restaurants’ flagship LTO campaigns, in addition to banners, yard signs and other placements used for major promotions at franchisees. The key photography of A&W employees will be formatted for the local restaurants’ digital menu boards, in-store TVs, and social channels.
Because this is such a big effort, A&W is launching and promoting the national market campaign across corporate digital and social channels, but they also equipped their local store marketing teams (and local store marketing partners) with editable campaign assets for the franchisees’ own unique restaurants.
The Coomer team worked closely with A&W’s field marketing teams as well as their top operations people to better understand the localized needs and their capacity for customization for local impact.
A&W knows that marketing alone isn’t the solution to the industry’s labor shortage, but they also know that highlighting their dedicated employees is not only the right thing to do – it's also a fun, irreverent, and unexpected way to approach employee recruitment.