Category Archives: Burger King

Burger King: Why unsettling ads work


Yes, this is a real ad by Burger King, and its sexual imagery has pundits screaming foul. Slate calls it shameless, Gawker calls it desperation, and even Alex Bogusky, head of Burger King’s U.S. agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, took time to tweet that his shop didn’t do this job. Turns out the ad was created by a separate team and is running over in Singapore.

As rude as many find this, it also resonates. Burger King mentions on Twitter more than tripled Wednesday, mainly among the influential marketing and advertising crowd. Blogs everywhere are chatting up the campaign — and the sandwich will certainly stick in your mind. Sex and violence have been used in advertising for decades to break through to consumers’ memories; other work for Burger King uses the creepy King figure rubbing women’s backs on the beach to tingle your mind somewhere between hunger, lust and fear. Psychologists know that human memory is heightened in times of emotional stress; freaking out people makes a lasting impression. Shock enough and Ad Age and Entertainment Weekly give you a call.

We call this a backchannel buzz strategy, where the creative is designed to startle viewers and also build scandal across other media. You’re seeing more of this lately because the internet makes it possible; web sites and social media don’t have broadcast standards, so shocking materials can spread like fire there even if seen or mentioned only briefly on CNN or The New York Times. Run a horrid ad once, cross the line, take it down — yet it will reverberate for weeks online, and if you’re lucky go viral to millions.

Our Sunday night podcast on Twitter, Burger King, and why we love Memphis


Last night four of us marketing types jumped on a Skype conference call to trounce the advertising news of last week. You can listen to our debate here:

– Is Twitter still overvalued as a marketing tool? Or has the microblogging service become the ultimate form of citizen journalism and market research?
– When Burger King killed 20,000 Facebook friends, what did Facebook know and when did it know it?
– Does Circuit City closing down signal darker days for all advertisers, or just that U.S. consumers are choking on homes filled with electronics?

The only thing we agreed on is if you are a major advertising executive, do NOT diss your client’s hometown via a Twitter message to the entire world. Thanks to Bill Green of Make the Logo Bigger, John Wall of Marketing Over Coffee, and Bob Knorpp of the BeanCast for a fascinating debate. Knorpp is the guy with a velvety voice, or as we suspect, just the most expensive computer mike.

Burger King to Facebook: Cancel our campaign and you’ll be our best friend

Here’s a nice roundup from Slate on Burger King’s latest bizarre campaign for the creepy King character. Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the devilish Penn & Teller of ad agencies, launched a Facebook application inviting users to “sacrifice” 10 friends in exchange for a free burger. The campaign went wild until Facebook shut it down, claiming it violated user terms or some such by notifying online “friends” when they had been unfriended.

The campaign played off of the superficial nature of many online connections, but also proves advertising is now a seed to get large networks — or best, mainstream media reporters — writing about you. The story got press in The Wall Street Journal and Ad Age.

Hm. Any chance Facebook was in on this game from stage 1 and played along to “cancel” it for its own buzz? Naw. That would be just too clever, right Crispin?

Daddy, why is Burger King abusing that onion?


On July 6 Paul Williams grabbed food at an airport and noticed something surreal about the Burger King paper tray liner. A pickle is putting on a rubber glove to examine an onion, whose pants are pulled down.

Nice. This bizarro-promotion comes from .start in Munich, and includes cartoon illustrations of topless carrots (on “PlayVeg” magazine in the above graphic), sailors headed for peep shows in a “vegsexy, hot and spicy” red light district, and our personal favorite, tomatoes being slaughtered for ketchup on Halloween.

Now that’s branding. Via Brand Autopsy.