The trinkets found in fast food chains' toy meals haven't changed much over the decades.
After you unwrap the toy – often, a figurine with an entertainment tie-in – you generally can't do much with it besides set it down somewhere and look at it, said Sascha Engel, creative director and deputy head of digital for Ogilvy & Mather China.
That's the challenge that came to mind when KFC, the biggest fast food chain in China, asked Ogilvy Shanghai to come up with a new national promotion, something digitally led and involving a toy meal that would appeal to millennials.
(Toys meals aren't just for kids in China; KFC also has a gift meal category aimed at teenagers and young adults who are into cute collectibles. This campaign was aimed at the 16-to-26 set.)
"We really thought about 'how can we evolve the experience?'" Mr. Engel said. "(So) when you get that toy together with the meal, that's just the beginning."
A strong mobile experience was key: China has 557 million mobile internet users, and many teenagers and young adults can afford the inexpensive Android smartphones that have flooded the market.
The campaign also came at an important moment for KFC, which was an early entrant to the China market and has more than 4,800 locations here. Yum Brands, the parent of KFC and Pizza Hut, reported Wednesday that fourth-quarter sales in China slid 16% at locations open for over a year, after a minor supplier was investigated for providing expired meat. Yum quickly cut ties with the supplier when the allegations became public in July.
KFC's campaign, which started in late December and runs through Valentine's Day, blended hot marketing elements of the moment, including a mobile game, offline-to-online experience, shareable selfies, K-pop and a cute boy band.