McDonald’s and Digital Creator Karen X Cheng Use Tech to Ring in the Year of the Rabbit

Feature Story Photo

Innovative campaign features AI, AR, and the metaverse to offer immersive ways to celebrate

Feature Story Photo

What happens when you blend classic Lunar New Year traditions with state of the art technology?

For the answer, look no further than McDonald’s Year of the Rabbit collaboration with San Franciscan social media sensation Karen X Cheng.

Featuring an augmented reality (AR) filter, a metaverse experience, and an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered television commercial, each campaign element was inspired by popular holiday practices like fortune telling, family gatherings, and the exchanging of red envelopes. Created by award-winning multicultural marketing agency IW Group, the program is designed to offer audiences — both those that already celebrate and those looking to start — new and innovative new ways to experience the magic of the holiday. 

The Golden Arches will also be celebrating in-person in the Golden City at the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival (Feb 4 – 5), where McDonald’s will be distributing custom red envelopes and tote bags to attendees. Each envelope will feature holiday-inspired illustrations by emerging AAPI artists and their personal connections to the holiday.


Named Inc’s 30 Under 30 (2018) and Adweek’s Creative 100 (2018), Cheng is known for her whimsical viral videos and collaborations with A-list celebrities, which have amassed over 500 million views. The partnership with McDonald’s marks the San Francisco-based artist’s first brand partnership recognizing and celebrating her Chinese American heritage.

“Teaming up with McDonald’s to create a campaign that not only leans into my passions as a creator but also my cultural identity is a dream come true,” said Karen X Cheng. “As a longtime Golden Arches fan, it’s an honor to be provided with a creative canvas that allows me to share my personal story as well as showcase my expression of the holiday to a wider audience.”

Aimed at showcasing Lunar New Year values of togetherness, joy, and optimism through both unconventional and traditional channels, the campaign features:

  • Augmented reality (AR) filter – Available on Instagram, the filter lets brand fans experience the transition from the Year of the Tiger (2022) to the Year of the Rabbit (2023) through a breathtaking 3D illusion.
  • Metaverse Experience – Imagining what a Lunar New Year celebration might look like in the future, the virtual space blends traditional Asian influences with futuristic elements, including 3D sculptures of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals.
  • AI-powered television commercial – Inspired by Karen’s childhood memories of Lunar New Year, the ad spot is one of the first to incorporate NeRF (neural radiance fields) technology, which utilizes artificial intelligence to create an immersive 3D scene.

“We know our fans live at the intersection of innovation and culture and that’s where McDonald’s needs to meet them,” said Elizabeth Campbell, McDonald’s Senior Director, Cultural Engagement Strategy. “Our collaboration with Karen X Cheng offers new, tech-forward ways to experience the Year of the Rabbit while also honoring the legacy of the holiday and uplifting the AAPI community. The Golden Arches is proud to kickstart the new year with an interactive campaign that invites our fans to become active participants in a global cultural celebration.”  

McDonald’s and the AAPI community 

As part of McDonald’s ongoing commitment to celebrating culture and serving communities, the Golden Arches supports and empowers AAPIs through year-long programs dedicated to ensuring that AAPIss feel seen and heard. In addition to celebrating important cultural moments like Lunar New Year, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Mid-Autumn Festival and Diwali, McDonald’s is also committed to addressing the needs of AAPI youth with initiatives like AAPI Next, an AAPI-focused education initiative launched in 2021 to address the unique needs of AAPI students.