Mouldy King

Does Burger King’s latest advert reek of adland style over sales substance?

Burger King's Fernando Machado is (rightly) adamant that marketing belongs in the boardroom - but is his latest stunt more likely to leave us loitering around the lavs?

You’ve been hiding under a Ronald McDonald shaped rock if you’ve avoided the controversy stirred up by Burger King's mouldy Whopper.

Excuse me for not mincing my words and covering them in secret sauce when I ask; was the Burger King marketing team off their face to think this is the visual representation they need for their hero product?

Hungry? Me neither.

We live and love rebellion and taking a risk around here, but Burger King revelling in rubbing their mouldy buns in our faces in creating an advert more suited to the pallets of the ad industry rather than consumers is not something I’ll commend.

I know what you want to tell me...

"It’s rebellious."
"It’s started a conversation."
"That's THE point". 

These are all points, yes (though a little shouty towards the end). But they’re ruddy well not the point at all, are they?

As ballsy as Burger King’s CMO, Fernando Machado, may be, will he succeed in making the planet's populace weave their wanderings towards the nearest Whopper outlet? The evidence so far would suggest not. And the reasoning for this is far less contrived than the leaps through cognitive dissonance needed to believe otherwise.

gasp blogfather mcdonalds vs burgerking
"The brain metaphorically asks the questions, 'what is it, what does it represent, what's in it for me'? The answers to these questions are 'rotten food' and 'nothing' because rotten food is a threat to survival. This triggers 'avoid' behaviour."

As Phil Barden, MD of Decode Marketing Ltd and author of “The Science Behind Why We Buy”, neatly summed up this week:

"From a behavioural science point of view this is a bizarre use of marketing money;

Firstly, our attention and perception are implicit ('system 1') processes that are stimulus-bound. System 1 can't imagine; it responds to stimuli. Kahneman uses the phrase 'what you see is all there is' and it is the stimulus (what you see) that will be decoded using our associative memories.

The brain metaphorically asks the questions, 'what is it, what does it represent, what's in it for me'? The answers to these questions are 'rotten food' and 'nothing' because rotten food is a threat to survival. This triggers 'avoid' behaviour.

Secondly, this image is highly likely to trigger 'reactance' which is emotional arousal with negative valence i.e it's unpleasant.

Thirdly, memory structures are built on the basis on 'what fires together wires together'. In this case, Burger King and rotten food.

Fourthly, the category is hedonic; it's all about enjoyment. Rotten food and enjoyment have no implicit intuitive association."

We’re all for impactful and rebellious advertising at Gasp, just as long as the revolt isn’t led by flame-grilled images that are impulsively revolting (unless they serve a specific and productive purpose, of course).

Our man Machado said:

“I want to be part of the conversation.”...“I want to be relevant.”

The Blogfather hears you, Fernando, and there’s a lot more than what is outlined above that you and I would surely agree on.

But early indicators appear to show that the ad has turned off the punters.

Research platform Attest put the question to 250 US residents, and 26% said the ad would make them more likely to visit a Burger King, while 34.8% said the polar opposite and the remaining 39.2% said “who cares?”.

With a majority of this admittedly small segment in the "Ah, no thank you” and apathy columns, I’m smelling the makings of a potentially award-winning, yet sales rotting cam-pain.

Zerotrillion and Hotspex also reported a whopping 26.9% of 344 respondents were less likely to visit the King than before. And only 35% would talk about the ad with friends and family. This one is demonstrably off to a rocky start.

Gasp’s own Giles Edwards put it very succinctly when he said:

"(They're) Ads for people who work in ads, not people".

Pushing the envelope to be remarkable for the sake of being relevant is seldom pretty. And in this case, it's going against human nature. Unless we’re content with fawning over advertising for Ad-arseholes, then may I not-so-humbly suggest that we, as an industry, start focusing on the long game. One that's rooted in sublime strategy and aimed, in turn, at provoking salivation saturated salience, instead of pawning off our principles to putrid patties?

That’s a mouthful alright; but a much healthier one to swallow.

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