The thinking behind Jollibee’s viral Valentine’s ads

With its latest 'Kwentong' video trilogy amassing more than 50 million views, fast food chain Jollibee has become one of the Philippines' biggest advertising phenomenons over the space of just two years. Eleanor Dickinson finds out from the brand's communications lead Arline Adeva how they did it

Of all the places in the world, a fast food restaurant is rarely the top of most couple’s lists to go for a romantic date – unless one party is looking for a swift break-up route.

So it remains perplexing how over the past two years, Valentine’s Day in the Philippines has become synonymous with a brand renowned more for fried chicken than candlelit dinners – Jollibee.

Yet bizarrely, the brand’s Kwentong Jollibee [Jollibee Stories] have now gained a cultural status akin to that of John Lewis’ Christmas ads. Between them, the two Valentine’s Day video trilogies – released over the last two years – have garnered more than 100 million views online.

“It comes down to what we tell our agencies: we want to show powerful truths well-told,” explains Arline Adeva, the brand’s communications and PR Director.

“These needed to be truths that were most relatable to our audience. We consider what stories they can relate to because they happened to them.  That’s the lesson we kept applying.”

Known for its tagline of ‘bringing joy to the world’, Jollibee is by far one of the Philippines’ most powerful national brands,  controlling half of the country’s’ S$5.4 billion fast food market.

Meanwhile, its YouTube videos regularly enjoy a healthy viewership of hundreds of thousands to a few million on each.

However, despite this leading position, there was one gaping issue the marketing team faced: the brand Jollibee was no longer seen as being cool among its younger audience

Our problem is is that the younger generation grows up with Jollibee,” Adeva explained.  “They had their first birthday there and they had good memories there. But then they get older, they become very conscious of their image and they go to other brands  – places they can be away from their families.”

With that in mind, two years ago the brand and its creative agency-of-record McCann came up with the idea to start telling real-life and “beautiful” stories in the form of short videos for special occasions – these being Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas.

Then, to promote the lead-up to Valentine’s Day 2017,  the creative team put together a trio of videos individually titled Vow, Crush and Date: each putting a different spin on a love story with an often bittersweet outcome.

Though the videos were simple in their execution – and not entirely subtle with the brand messaging – the emotional tales clearly hit a note among the Philippines populations. Within a matter of days, the videos had collectively reached more than 5 million views and got scores talking about their own Valentine’s woes – and the brand – on social media. Soon enough, #KwentongJollibee was trending on Twitter.


And as is the nature of any viral social media trend, users were soon quick to put their own spins on #KwentongJollibee, mimicking the ‘Crush’ film by leaving post-it notes on burgers to making their own reaction videos.

“In the Philippines, we are suckers for a love story. But still, the reaction was far more than what we expected though. They say we broke the internet. It surpassed all the highest viewed videos of Jollibee ever,” explains Adeva. 

“During Valentine’s everyone, including celebrities, chose to put post-its on burgers to their loved-ones. Everyone was posting about it; we were trending in the Philippines and even worldwide.

“We were also introduced to the world of YouTube reaction videos, which was an indication of the engagement we were generating.”

And most importantly for Adeva, the majority of these social media reactions were coming from millennials – the audience to whom Jollibee had faced such challenges to reach.

“With the Jollibee stories, we were able to make them feel relevant at this stage in their life. As such, we saw a significant lift in engagement from this group.”

While 2017 scored Jollibee a memorable year – and according to Adeva, a triple spike in sales during the campaign’s run – like with any seasonal campaign, the pressure to repeat the same success the following year is intense.

Knowing this, Jollibee and McCann out together a ‘playbook’ documenting the entire creative process – from concept to media – in an effort to have a framework for the perfect sequel.

Following this, the two embarked on gruelling hunt to find new stories to relay in the subsequent Valentine’s series, manually trawling social media to find inspiration in the hashtags.

We used a lot of social listening and spent a lot of time hunting for stories, brainstorming them and then really pinpointing them,” says Adeva. “We didn’t want to just pick an average story; we sifted through about 30 stories before selecting the ones used in the campaign. The challenge was how to choose the best.”

She adds: “We didn’t have a science for it. A lot if it came from our own intuition: we know our customers; we know Filipinos and what will be with a hit for them. A personal approach is the way to go.”

The resulting videos were ‘Homecoming’,  a sequel to the previous year’s ‘Crush’ video, telling the story of how high school sweethearts ended up together in the end, which continued the ‘post-it notes’ motif.

This was followed by ‘Signs’, which played on a young woman’s hopes to find ‘the one’ by reading her crush’s behaviour, while the final, ‘Status’ looks at true love beyond the hurdles of dating.

Reading the ‘Signs’: Jollibee’s second in the 2018 series

Like the 2017 series, each video followed the same formula: from the opening line of ‘Based on a true story’, to the gently crescendoing pop soundtrack and the final tearjerking conclusion.

And the formula clearly paid off once again: within a week of being released, the three videos had racked up 23 million views on both Facebook and YouTube and generated 540,000 shares and 458,000 comments. 

The hashtag #KwentongJollibee once again started trending  on Twitter, with more than 19,000 posts globally.

But the big question naturally remained: did 2018’s campaign surpass its predecessor? “In terms of total views, yes,” says Adeva. “We have close to 60 million views across Facebook and Google today.”

Nevertheless, she admits: “The good thing from 2017 was the percentage of organic views. We didn’t boost two of the three videos in 2017.

“It was a big hurdle to surpass 2017, especially because of the new Facebook algorithm. It was harder to push organic views, so we were more conscious of how engaging the material would be this time round, so people would be more keen to share. We did need to pay for boosts in 2018, but the budget was reasonable as people were sharing anyway.”

Looking towards 2019, both the marketing team and the agency are already planning a ‘threequel’ for next romantic season. So is the brand well on its way to becoming the John Lewis of Valentine’s Day?

“That’s one of our ambitions actually,” says Adeva.  “We want people to get excited for this tradition. Even this year, people said they knew it was nearly Valentine’s Day because they saw the Jollibee ads. Someone shared with us that even though she didn’t have a love life, she was happy because she could go to Jollibee. That’s the vision.”


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