McDonald’s unveils AI tool to help Gen Z connect with non-English-speaking grandparents

MCDONALD’S is revolutionizing intergenerational communication within Asian American families with its latest AI-powered initiative. This groundbreaking campaign aims to bridge the language gap between Gen Z and their non-English-speaking grandparents.

Lola Herecilla (left) reacts upon hearing granddaughter Aina speaking in Tagalog.

Utilizing advanced voice cloning and lip sync technology, McDonald’s new AI video translation website allows users to “speak” in their grandparents’ native languages, fostering stronger family bonds and preserving cultural heritage.

In a first for the brand in the U.S., McDonald’s launched  sweetconnections.ai, inviting users to record heartfelt video messages and translate them into their grandparents’ native languages with just a few clicks. With the latest advancements in artificial intelligence, the site employs voice cloning and lip sync technology to transform videos from English into one of 31 languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Italian, and French. The result is a video in which the user will look and sound like they’re speaking a completely new language.

Lola Herecilla and Aina are featured in McDonald’s Grandma McFlurry® campaign, which features sweetconnections.ai – allowing non- or limited-English-speaking grandparents to connect with their GenZ grandchildren in their own native languages.

This new AI tool is part of McDonald’s  Grandma McFlurry® campaign. As grandkids know, McDonald’s is often the place to make memories with grandma. From treating us to impromptu soft serve to letting us have dessert first, grandma always knows how to make us feel special!

“I cherish the memories of my Sitty [grandmother], whose first language was Arabic. At times, I struggled to communicate all my emotions to her,” said Tariq Hassan, Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at McDonald’s USA. “So, I love that we launched an innovative program that removes the barrier of language to address a real-world challenge for many multigenerational families like my own. McDonald’s is all about engaging our fans in ways that bring their families and communities together.”

Sweet Connections is being promoted nationally through a trio of documentary-style commercials exploring the language barrier between U.S.-born grandchildren — who speak primarily English — and their foreign-born grandmothers, who may speak little to no English. The spots feature real-life grandchild and grandma duos discussing the joys and challenges of their relationship before being surprised with an AI-translated message.

“I’m honored to be part of this campaign and celebrate the relationship I have with my lola. Seeing her reaction when she saw the video of me speaking in Tagalog was incredible,” shared Aina, one of the Asian Americans featured in the campaign. Her Lola Herecilla is thankful that the program exists. “It’s great that McDonald’s is supporting a program that helps immigrant families better communicate,” she said.

“As a child of immigrants who isn’t fluent in my grandparents’ native language, I can attest to the language barrier that often exists within intergenerational families. However, this new AI tool aims to create those lasting connections to our elders by dissolving this barrier,” said Nita Song, President and CEO of IW Group, the multicultural agency that developed Sweet Connections. “For this campaign, we’re utilizing AI to help bridge this divide and enable grandkids to express their feelings of love and gratitude to their grandparents in a way they can truly understand.”

In addition to translating Gen Z’s English video messages into their grandparents’ native languages, the Sweet Connections website can perform the reverse function: translating their grandparents’ non-English messages into English. To highlight this unique feature, McDonald’s is bringing the tool to select senior citizen centers across the U.S. and hosting workshops to teach non-English speaking grandparents how to use the tool to send messages to their grandchildren.

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