Two students created the viral stunt to make a statement about Asian-American representation.
Toying with reality for entertainment isn’t new. Heck, Candid Camera debuted on TV back in 1948. But social media has certainly increased the opportunities for these types of stunts, and occasionally an example comes along that goes above and beyond your average prank. Case in point, University of Houston student Jehv Maravilla recently hung a fake promotional poster in a McDonald’s—except that his knock-off was so spot on, it’s remained hanging in the restaurant for over 50 days.
According to Maravilla—who posted a YouTube video last month documenting the project and also spoke to his local KPRC-TV yesterday after things went viral—he was at a McDonald’s in Pearland, Texas, in June with his friend Cristian Toledo when they saw a blank wall that stood out from many of the other walls adorned with advertisements for the chain. The pair, who are both Filipino-Americans, also noticed how none of the people in the other ads were Asian—so they hatched their own plan to become McDonald’s models.
Rather than throw up a hasty, humorous knockoff, the duo dutifully studied the existing artwork to ensure that their fake poster would match the ones already in the restaurant. After a formal photo shoot, an Office Depot order, and a little help from a thrift store bought McDonald’s uniform, they hung the poster on July 13.
Amazingly, the poster remained there without incident—or notice—until September 2, when after 51 days, the whole project got a huge viral nudge. Maravilla himself posted about breaking the 50-day mark on his Twitter account, and someone else posted a photo of Toledo and Maravilla sitting in front of their poster on the Pics section of Reddit. Both posts received a tremendous response, and the whole stunt—which cost the duo about $100 to pull off—became a global phenomenon.
Despite the positive publicity, however, Maravilla said he had a larger cause in mind. “Asian representation in media is not as prevalent as it should be,” he told KPRC-TV. “What motivated me was ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ the movie that came out, that boosted my confidence into thinking maybe one day I could be just like that, and if I take a step and do something small like this, it could make a difference.”
Meanwhile, for its part, the McDonald’s franchise that has served as the poster’s home stated, “We take pride in highlighting diversity in every aspect of our restaurants. We applaud these students’ creativity and hope to see them in our restaurants again soon.” Though after seeing them in their restaurant for over 50 days straight, Maravilla and Toledo are probably due for a break.