Ad Nut
Aug 21, 2023

Taste tops the charts in McDonald's and Leo Burnett Indonesia campaign

Lost in translation but found in rhythm? Leo Burnett’s delightfully absurd campaign for McDonald’s Indonesia transforms a Happy Meal into a dramatic interpretative dance of confusion.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to witness a dance-off between catchy tunes and your appetite, wonder no more. The creatives at Leo Burnett rolled out a new jingle for McDonald’s Indonesia that has managed to top the charts and become the country’s favourite pop single. The song, ‘Nihon No Fureeba,’ currently sits on the top with musical heavyweights as the most searched item on Shazam.

Let the absurdity of that statement sink in.

How did a jingle that was solely created for an ad with the purpose of humming whilst munching on fries, manage to strut its way to the top of Indonesia’s music charts? A place reserved for the musical geniuses who spend many-a-night crafting intricate melodies and penning heartfelt lyrics?

Well, the mystery lies in Indonesia’s bewildering fascination and obsession with Japanese pop culture. Manga, the ink-and-paper sibling of anime, isn’t just read; it’s devoured. It’s the bedtime story that never gets old. Harajuku’s streets are a runway of self-expression, where frills, neon, and quirky accessories are the norm. The frenzy of J-pop concerts that are full-scale musical invasions where fans scream louder than jet engines extends all over Asia.

“Japanese pop culture is strong in Indonesia. People love Japanese pop songs and put them in their playlists, sing along, even wear cool t-shirts with Japanese letters—all without understanding what they mean,” explains Ravi Shanker, chief creative officer of Leo Burnett Indonesia.

The art of pretending to get it and masterfully playing along, was Leo Burnett’s creative ticket to creating a whirlwind of confusion, delight and with a hankering of fries on the side. They rolled out the song Nihon No Fureeba, collaborating with Indonesian-Japanese singer Ica Zahra who released it as her highly anticipated Japanese single, without subtitles.

Everyone loved the song. Within one week, the music video was watched more than three million times. The song became the talk of radio, and hundreds of covers and TikTok dances were made.

Now let’s talk about the lyrics—or lack thereof. Everyone loved the song without knowing that it was in fact an untranslated ad for McDonald’s. “Because no one knew that it was an ad. The lyrics were in Japanese, untranslated, and people thought that it was just a nice feel-good J-Pop song!” says Leo Burnett’s CCO Shanker.

Now that's hilarious. Ad Nut thinks that Leo Burnett cracked the code to global unity with this one: Have people bob their heads and pretend to groove and understand. Who cares if the lyrics are about fame, fortune or fries?

Then, Ica Zahra and McDonald’s made the revelation that the lyrics were in fact, promoting the relaunch of McDonald’s Taste of Japan burgers featuring crispy nori and Yakiniku sauce.

Well, the gimmicky stunt could’ve flipped the whole campaign on its head and drowned the initial wave of excitement but instead, the marketing efforts managed to keep the bizarre brilliance going. Perhaps, that’s what teetering at the edge of a well-executed gimmick is all about: the audience should be able to see that the work is designed to illicit amusement and not authenticity.

Michael Hartono, marketing director at McDonald’s Indonesia, says: “At the end of the day, the campaign is making people love not only the burgers but also the brand. Even after people realised that it was an ad, they still continue doing karaoke with it, and the song–I mean the jingle–is now in thousands of Spotify playlists to this day.”

That’s not all. With the launch of Nihon No Fureeba, Indonesian’s curiosity about the burgers spiked so fast, that first-week sales surpassed that of the last three years.

The whole campaign is almost comically-insane with something strangely enchanting about the narrative.

If someone pulled a similar tactic in the jungle and Ad Nut fell from the branches of a tree mistaking it for studier ground, Ad Nut would hold a grudge against the prankster for making Ad Nut appear foolish in front of the whole ilk. But unlike squirrels, humans live in an odd realm where cold logic does not often reign supreme.

Ad Nut is not complaining. Even if the concept of this campaign was gimmicky, the laughs, the nods, the collective bewilderment are real. Sometimes, it’s the quirks and the unexpected turns that keep the audience talking, long after the curtain has fallen.  


Client: McDonald’s Indonesia

Director of Marcomms, CBI & Digital: Michael Hartono
Associate Director of Marketing: Caroline Kurniadjaja
Marketing Manager: Rio Hastowo
Marketing Manager: William Karmawan
Assistant Marketing Manager: Widya Noviantal 

Agency: Leo Burnett Indonesia 

CEO: Sony Nichani
CCO: Ravi Shanker
CCO, Southeast Asia: Ajay Thrivikraman
Senior Creative Director: Dafi Alfadila
Associate CD & Writer: Joshua Tjandra
General Manager: Yusdina Fibriyanti
Head of Planning: Nilakshi Medhi
Senior Account Director: Margie Bangun   
Planning Manager: Sakshi Sharma
Senior Art Director: Levina Christy
Art Director: Septian Listyanto
Senior Copywriter: Ayu Meutia
Junior AE: Cherisha Dewi
Graphic Designer: Sarah Aghnia
Graphic Designer: Bella Ferina
Senior Project Manager: Yuliani Sherlyta
Senior Producer: Anti Istianti 
Head of Digital: Imran Quraishi
Social Media Associate Director: Timothy Laksmana
Social Media Team: Ni Wayan Desy, Arini Rizki, Sandra Adi
PR Executive: Chessa AT Thariq 

Song and music video:

Composer, Songwriter & Talent: Ica Zahra
Arranger: Tyas Pratama
Original lyrics: Leo Burnett Indonesia
Japanese lyrics: Ica Zahra, Kaito Mori
Mixing & mastering: Stevano
Recording: 1207 Studio Tokyo, Japan
Music video Director: Tomomi
Cameraman: Chiori Morioka
Production: Mao Tsukamoto

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.


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