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Dive Brief:

  • McDonald’s is heralding the Lunar New Year with a metaverse activation designed with Opening Ceremony co-founder Humberto Leon, according to a press release.
  • Billed as the burger chain’s first cross-media collaboration, the virtual space celebrating the Year of the Tiger showcases Leon’s elaborate zodiac sculptures, which take inspiration from Chinese cork carving dioramas and 3D wood puzzles. Visitors can receive horoscope readings based on their zodiac signs while exploring a venue arranged by Cliff Tan, an architect who applies feng shui principles to imbue interiors with feel-good energy.
  • “McDonald’s Hall of Zodiacs: 2022 Lunar New Year with Humberto Leon” was executed with multicultural agency IW Group and is open through Feb. 15. It is accessible through the AltspaceVR and Spatial virtual reality (VR) platforms, as well as in mobile and desktop versions. McDonald’s is running TV spots on Asian news channels nationwide to support the effort, and select store locations will dole out traditional red envelope gifts to connect with consumers who value the holiday.

Dive Insight:

McDonald’s is enacting a tech-forward marketing play around the Lunar New Year on Feb. 1, a holiday predominantly celebrated in countries in East and Southeast Asia. This year marks the Year of the Tiger, a period centered on courageous and fearless qualities. The activation shows the fast food marketer continuing to experiment in the fledgling frontier of the metaverse while trying to engage a set of U.S. consumers who are increasingly important to its business.

Aiming for a “bold and unconventional take” on the tradition, the Big Mac purveyor tapped ad agency IW Group and Opening Ceremony’s Leon, who is of Chinese-Peruvian background. The fashion and retail label he co-founded with Carol Lim is known for its elaborate, diverse runway productions, a theatrical sensibility the Year of the Tiger showcase tries to capture through towering zodiac sculptures arranged as an interactive art exhibit. Opening Ceremony closed all of its retail locations due to the impact of COVID-19, while its trademark and intellectual property were recently acquired by New Guards Group.

McDonald’s has grown more ambitious with its Lunar New Year campaigns as Asian-Americans wield greater purchasing power and display a preference for digital media. Last year, the Golden Arches owner partnered with Asian music collective 88rising on a Lunar New Year push that featured virtual concerts run through the McDonald’s app and a miniseries on Instagram’s IGTV streaming portal.

This year’s concept is noteworthy for placing the metaverse front and center, the latest sign that marketers are invested in realizing the potential of channels that bridge the physical world with shared virtual spaces. Still, McDonald’s seems to recognize that only a small cohort of consumers actually owns a proper VR headset, as the Hall of Zodiac also comes in mobile and desktop versions.

McDonald’s other bets on the metaverse have included a nonfungible token (NFT) drop themed around the return of its limited-run McRib menu item last fall. Its first crack at the NFT market was met with some controversy after a transaction tied to one of the digital collectibles contained a racial slur. Due to the immutable nature of the blockchain technology powering NFTs, McDonald’s was unable to properly scrub the offensive message, though it was buried in the transaction details.