No Smiles

The Umbrella Species



Transforming McDonald’s  from “a place where smiling is mandatory” to “a place that accepts smiles of all shapes and sizes.”

The Challenge

McDonald’s Japan has 3,000 stores nationwide with 100 million customers every month.

Gen Z, which accounts for about 60% of all employees, is the backbone of the business.

However, the Gen Z workforce has been decreasing every year, and McDonald’s was suffering from a perpetual shortage of staff. With Japan’s declining birthrate, securing the Gen Z workforce was a challenge for all industries, including McDonald’s. But in reality, it was difficult to gain an advantage in terms of hourly wages and other conditions alone. In order to stand out from the competition, McDonald’s needed to make a good impression not only as a restaurant but also as a place to work for part-timers.

The Solution

In Japan, smiles are served as part of the McDonald’s menu, and the price has always been free, with the famous catchphrase “Smile: 0 yen,” which all Japanese customers recognize. However, over time, “Smile: 0 yen” was abused by some customers who took it for granted. It was something that added extra stress for the crew.

TBWA\HAKUHODO collaborated with “ano”, a popular artist among Gen Z, and changed this perception of McDonald’s with just one line: “I won’t give you a smile.”

McDonald’s released an original song with the same name, portraying the thoughts and feelings of real McDonald’s crew members. The tune updated their brand image from “a place where smiling is mandatory” to “a place that accepts smiles of all shapes and sizes.”

The Results

Increase in McDonald’s applicants
New hires the – highest number in McD’s history
More brand love from Gen Z

The song became viral on TikTok and YouTube, and in just three months, the video surpassed 36 million views across social media. That’s more than twice as many views as the population of Gen Z in Japan. The campaign resulted in 105,000 new hires—the highest number in McDonald’s history. And best of all, 150% more of Gen Z said McDonald’s is a great place to work.

Finally, the wording in the McDonald’s manual, untouched for 50 years, was changed from “Work with a Smile” to “Work with Your Style,” changing how McDonald’s crew worked from the bottom up.

Watch the Music Video


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