McDonald’s Indonesia sneaks burger-ad lyrics into J-pop song 

Fast food giant used the popularity of Japanese pop culture in Indonesia to trick people into watching an burger ad, boosted sales more than 111%

McDonald’s in Indonesia is tapping into the country’s fondness for all things Japanese with the launch of its new Taste of Japan burger.

While many people love Japanese pop culture, they don’t all understand the language. Using this insight, agency Leo Burnett Indonesia, Jakarta, teamed up with Indonesian-Japanese singer Ica Zahra to create a catchy J-pop song – the trick being that the lyrics were actually promoting the new burger.

The song, titled Nihon No Fureeba, was released without subtitles and topped Indonesia’s music charts. Ten days later, it was revealed that the song was in fact a promotion for the QSR’s onigiri-looking burgers. The lyrics included: Soft bun, crispy nori / Yakiniku sauce and authentic taste / McDonald’s Taste of Japan / What a uniquely awesome flavour.

Ravi Shanker, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett Indonesia, said in a statement, ‘Japanese pop culture is strong in Indonesia. People love Japanese pop songs and put them in their playlists, sing along, and even wear cool T-shirts with Japanese letters without understanding what they mean.’ 

The song played on the radio and was so popular that it was used to make dance videos on TikTok. The Untranslated Ad was released in August 2023.

Results / According to the agency, McDonald’s sales increased by over 111% and earned IDR3.9bn ($255,000) worth of media. The song became the number one searched song on Shazam and gained 3 million YouTube views within one week.

Contagious Insight 

Hidden in plain sight / McDonald’s finds a way to promote and sell a new burger by tapping into something Indonesians love: Japanese pop culture. This campaign illustrates the importance of local consumer research, as different strategies work for different territories. We’ve seen other brands do this successfully such as Head & Shoulders when it freed Indonesians of the fear of mispronouncing its brand name. Here, the Untranslated Ad understood the right tone to hit with locals, giving them a new burger to enjoy with a side of J-Pop.

McDonald’s has become somewhat of a pro at adapting to local markets and gaining traction for it. For example, in 2021, we reported on how McDonald’s Malaysia changed the name of one of its restaurants to its local nickname, Mekdi, to overcome perceptions of foreignness. The challenge was different here as McDonald’s already has a strong presence in Indonesia (in 2021, McDonald's restaurants in Indonesia generated sales of roughly $314m). However, the strategy of connecting with people by tapping into local culture worked just as well to launch a new burger.

They’re one of us / In this campaign, McDonald’s managed to become part of the language by using its understanding of Indonesia to turn a regular ad into a stunt and viral moment in local culture. Ica Zahra’s song acts as a Trojan Horse for a McDonald’s ad by disguising it under a catchy J-pop song and becomes part of culture, rather than just advertising to people. McDonald’s strikes the right balance between an ad and a piece of entertainment. On this, legendary practitioner of planning Paul Feldwick told us, ‘Advertising can and often has been something that people choose to consume, as long as it’s created to be entertainment and not a boring sales pitch or an offensive interruption.’ In this case, the people who connected with the song are primed to pay attention to the reveal about the lyrics, and are more likely to tune into the content of the ad.

This article was downloaded from the Contagious intelligence platform. If you are not yet a member and would like access to 11,000+ campaigns, trends and interviews, email [email protected] or visit to learn more.