Wendy’s uses an axe to hack Fortnite

How the cheeky burger chain seduced gamers by chopping up the scenery

Unless you’ve had your head in a freezer for the last few months, you’re probably aware of the mega-hit game Fortnite. With more than 200 million players, 45% of whom are under 25, it should be a goldmine for brands. Except most of them haven’t been able to find a way in that doesn’t irritate gamers.
When Fortnite announced a new event called Food Fight, between team pizza and team burger, Wendy’s and its agency VMLY&R saw an opening. Especially since team burger stored its beef patties in freezers. Wendy’s takes great pride in the fact that it never uses frozen beef. So it created a character that looked like a badass version of Wendy and dropped her into the game, where she started finding and destroying freezers. The gaming community noticed, approved and even began to join in. The initiative won the Social & Influencer Grand Prix at Cannes. 



VMLY&R is a global marketing agency with more than 7,000 employees worldwide with principal offices in Kansas City, London, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. VMLY&R works with client partners including Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Dell, Ford, Office Depot, PepsiCo, Pfizer and Wendy’s. 


VML Bolsters Creative Offering With Lauren Lafranz as Managing Director, Global Creative Operations; David Altis as Executive Creative Director; and Mariana Costa as Group Creative Director

VML announced Lauren Lafranz has been hired as managing director, global creative operations. She will report to Debbi Vandeven, global chief creative officer..

In this newly created role, Lafranz will be responsible for implementing Vandeven's vision, helping manage VML’s award-winning creative offices worldwide, formalizing the global creative network and being a resource consultant to activate appropriate skill sets for clients. Based in VML’s New York office, she will also expand creative standards and manage global awards planning.

Lafranz brings more than 15 years of experience, with the majority of her career spent with J. Walter Thompson Worldwide — the past 10 of which concentrated on the creative content side. In her previous position as chief creative content officer, she was directly responsible for managing JWT’s creative program and global creative initiatives. In addition to overseeing programming, she allocated creative resources, tailored showcases for recruitment and retention, and advised on content for award show opportunities. Prior to that, Lafranz held roles in both account management and project management, working on brands such as Rolex, JetBlue and Domino's.

“We strive to create work that pushes boundaries and makes a valuable impact for our brands,” Vandeven said. “Lauren’s ability to identify rising creative talent combined with her experience in the awards community makes her an excellent addition to the VML team. She will be a tremendous steward of our creative work.”

Lafranz will act as director of VML’s global creative council, where she will guide creative teams through the process of producing enhanced creative and manage performance of each office in the VML network. She will also hold the title of creative curator, ensuring the highest quality work is cultivated and advanced for VML’s clients. Additionally, Lafranz will recommend talent for specific assignments across global brands.

“I am honored to join the incredibly talented and thoughtful VML family to further shine a light on their creative and innovative solutions to a global audience,” Lafranz said. “I also would like to express my gratitude to everyone at JWT. They will always hold a special piece of my heart, and I hope that I have helped our global creative community as much as I have learned from them. It is comforting to know that I am simply expanding my WPP family.”

VML rehired David Altis as executive creative director, based out of VML Kansas City. He originally joined VML in September 2004, leaving in August 2014 to serve as executive creative director at a local boutique advertising agency.

Altis has worked on a client roster that includes Kellogg, Hill's Pet Nutrition, SAP, Waste Management, multiple Blue Cross and Blue Shield organizations, H&R Block, Colgate-Palmolive, Tom’s of Maine and the San Diego Zoo.

His experience with digital transformations and advertising spans more than 22 years. He was formally educated in traditional illustration and worked as a successful illustrator for several years before shifting his focus to digital.

Altis has applied his experience across diverse client verticals to help create meaningful consumer engagement ecosystems — striving to connect people to brands by employing insights-driven digital, traditional and broadcast strategies.

His digital and interactive background includes extensive enterprise-level websites, marketing micro sites and consumer social media engagements.

Altis reports to John Godsey, chief creative officer, North America.

Mariana Costa has joined VML as group creative director, based out of the agency’s Chicago office.

Costa has nearly 20 years of experience in the advertising industry, including 12 years in New York working at McCann and DDB on brands such as Georgia-Pacific, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon and Reebok. She began her career at BBDO Chicago.

At VML, Costa will be part of the Kimberly-Clark team, where she will manage creative delivery for Family Care brands.

Costa reports to Sean Burns, executive creative director.


About VML
VML is a lead marketing agency that transforms brands through a connected consumer experience. VML’s clients include Bridgestone, Colgate-Palmolive, Electrolux/Frigidaire, Ford, the Kellogg Company, Kimberly-Clark, New Balance, PepsiCo, Sprint and Wendy’s.

Founded in 1992 and headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, VML joined the world’s largest communications services group, WPP, in 2001. VML has more than 3,000 employees with principal offices in 33 locations across six continents.