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Friday, Dec. 21, 2007 at 10:03 am

The Whopper is dead. Long live the Whopper!

By Robert Gorell
December 21st, 2007

whopper.jpgWant to see what happens to Americans when their favorite fast food is taken away?

Of course you do. But if you want to live dangerously, try telling a hungry customer who can’t wait to bite into 670 glorious calories that their favorite sandwich (over half of which is fat) has been retired. Capturing such a moment requires skilled actors, coordinated planning, hidden cameras, and preferably, a cardiologist standing by. But most of all, it takes confidence.

Burger King’s “Whopper Freakout” campaign does all of those things, showing a level of brand confidence that hasn’t been seen since “The Pepsi Challenge.” B.L. Ochman said it best: “It’s seven minutes long. It pisses off Burger King customers. It makes fun of competitors. In other words, it rocks!”

[If video doesn't load, click here.]

A few things that qualify Whopper Freakout as one of the best TV + Web viral campaigns ever:

  • The reactions.
  • It’s “flame broiled,” not fried.
  • The Whopper isn’t a new product or promotion.
  • The King is a man of few words; he’s a prankster, but ultimately, he saves the day.
  • A short TV commercial serves as a teaser, while the real payoff happens online.
  • Their custom video player is grainy, making it feel voyeuristic and, somehow, more trustworthy.
  • Even though they built their own site, they still put it on YouTube.
  • It’s brilliantly filmed and choreographed.
  • You can share it (email it, embed it).
  • They didn’t have to do it.
  • They did it.
  • Unless you’re vegan, it kinda makes you crave a Whopper.
  • “From what I understand, they were too popular.”
  • It’s actually not a ridiculous stunt, unlike this.
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Comments (17)

  1. Hey – they’re doing great outdoor too – check out the billboard “Silly Whopper, that’s a big mac box” I see it every morning when I get out of the N/R/W at 28th & Broadway.

  2. Ok, so I guess it’s a great ad from an industry perspective, but as someone who is not a potential customer, it just drives me nuts. Watching a bunch of gullible idiots believe that Burger King is getting rid of its signature sandwich, which is actually just a regular old hamburger anyway, is just too painful. It’s like advertising to the American public that Americans really are this stupid.

    They could have ridden the King campaign out for years and years. Even if individual ads were not particularly clever, the presence of the character still made me, and I’m sure millions of others, perk up. It actually made me want to go try one of those disgusting breakfast sandwiches, and I haven’t touched Burger King in at least eight years since I was a poor college freshman.

    I watched Jack in the Box ads from afar for years, and in the four weeks that I’ve been fully relocated to the southwest, I’ve been there twice. The first time, I got a double sourdough jack, a double burger with bacon and cheese on two pieces of BUTTERED bread. I drank two cokes, ate all the fries, and felt like a fat pig, especially because I had just ingested more than my daily recommended caloric and saturated fat intake, and I was nowhere near full. But something made me go back again, and it certainly wasn’t the food.

    Burger King can do far better, and have.

  3. It kind of makes me sad that a corporation thinks up this kind of idea and it upsets us so much, yet we don’t react to poverty in our own country.

  4. However bad the whopper burger might be. I think the just made excellent viral video.

  5. If all the other Fastfood giants would kill off their topsellers perhaps we Americans will begin slimming down. Have you looked at the superspreading of america lately and wondered what is causing it. This garbage food that the fastfood giants are putting out together with their supersized portions.

    Sorry if I seem to be ranting but it is about time that us bloggers say something about it and don’t tell me that this is not the right forum.

    Every forum makes sense for this subject

  6. Nobody’s forced to eat anything they don’t want to in this country. You think fat content of food should be regulated by the government, pinko?

  7. I am constantly shocked at the total lack of understanding of the free enterprise system. Especially by those that consider themselves to be “open minded”, liberal thinking individuals.

    The free market doesn’t dictate what we buy, “big bad business” simply reacts to it. If business had the ability to tell us what to buy, GM will still be at 59% market share and gaining, rather than 23% and dwindling. If business could tell us what to buy, Kmart would never have beat Sears and both of them would not be desperately grasping for survival in the shadow of WallMart! The reason we have a hundred different kinds of deodorant on the shelf is that we buy them. When we stop demanding that kind of choice, the manufacturers will stop making them and the retailers will stop putting them on the shelf.

    Next time you are ready to blame business for some problem in society, take a long hard look in the mirror. The products we are offered are a direct response to what we are asking for. Nothing more…nothing less.

  8. Hmmm…Risky is my first reaction – it could have gotten violent – there was one guy in the video who looked 1 degree away from snapping! I’ll admit – good viral video, but I have to wonder about a company that is so disrespectful to it’s loyal customers.

  9. I have a different take on this “stunt”. I generally dislike fast food, but my favorite fast food hamburger is a Whopper. I saw that commercial and got mad. It made me want to avoid Burger King more than the dancing Whopper ingredients, more than the commercials about the Burger King… more than knowing where the meat comes from and how bad the burger is for me.

    The commercial is incredibly disrespectful toward customers. If that’s all they think of me, why should I go back? Why would anyone want to go someplace that will randomly take their favorite thing off the menu?

    I’d go farther than “risky” and say it was “stupid”.

  10. One of the main reasons I loved it so much was time spent.

    You have people – like me – who have not been to Burger King in years spending seven-plus minutes watching the video and an whole lot more time Blogging and talking about it.

    Like Subservient Chicken, I find that impressive.

  11. A Whopper of a marketing lesson…

    The Future Now blog is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how to communicate more effectively on the Internet. A recent must read post highlights a brilliant marketing campaign by an established company that’s taking their game to a n…

  12. [...] Robert Gorell at Future Now says that the Whopper Freakout was one the best TV + Web viral campaigns for the following reasons: [...]

  13. Alex: Wow. Seriously one of the funniest comments I’ve read all year. Perhaps BK would have done better if they introduced The King at some point in the TV commercial teasers, but he’s still part of the video. I’m not sure I understand your point, unless you’re saying this is unnecessary since all they really need to do is have The King show up every now and then. Personally, I hated those ads at first, but they’ve grown on me over time. Everyone they pranked gets a Whopper eventually, and it’s even delivered by His Majesty. In fact, The King is shown to not be a substitute for the real thing. Remember when the woman at the counter was offered a signed photograph of The King instead of her Whopper? It wasn’t much consolation. To me, that’s still on-brand. The King is just some guy wearing a fake mask. He’ll never be as important as his product, so he doesn’t try to be. Yes, they’re advertising to the public that Americans are this stupid, but that’s nothing we didn’t already know. (When Orson Wells said that aliens were attacking, people in Jersey ran out of their houses with buckets on their heads.) Besides, I think the point is that they never do ANY advertising for the Whopper because they don’t have to. So when people find out that it’s been removed from the menu, it’s really the first Whopper-related news they’ve gotten in decades. If you think this nation’s fine citizens aren’t willing to trade a little dignity for free food, look no further than those buffet lines in Vegas. A free meal AND they get to be Web-famous? For most Americans, that’s a “two-fer.”

    Joe Manculus: Maybe poverty in the U.S. has a branding problem. I’m serious. The ONE Campaign does a good job of raising awareness/money to fight global poverty, but show me a similar success story by a non-profit/NGO focused on the United States alone. In the meantime, try saying what you said here to a homeless man who’s trying to buy a Whopper.

    Small Business Marketing: Good luck with that.

    Larry Dunville: I’m a “liberal thinking individual” who agrees with everything you just said, other than you calling people like me “liberal thinking individuals.” I prefer the term “progressive” but I don’t think progressive politics have anything to do with people’s basic misunderstandings of free enterprise. Your comment suggests that anyone who’s “pro-business” (if one can make such a blanket statement and still be taken seriously) is naturally conservative. Not that I intended this post to be political in any way — nor do my views necessarily represent those of the rest of the Future Now/GrokDotCom team — but what you said is like me suggesting that everyone who’s right-wing is a fan of Larry the Cable Guy. Regardless, you make some fantastic points and I really appreciate your smart comment.

    Rick & Dawn: Is it really disrespectful to play a practical joke on people if you give them a good laugh, a free meal, and (I’m assuming) the option to sign a standard release waiver that makes them aware of how the video will be used? Maybe the Whopper Freakout site could have done more to show how everyone really reacted after they were told it was a prank. An outtake reel, perhaps?

    Mitch: Yup. Time spent is a big deal in this case. But not all time spent is equal. I may have loved the video and found it suspenseful, but there are a lot of people who found it painfully hard to watch.

    This conversation makes me think of Bryan & Seth’s Meatball Sundae interview, where they talk about how and when to take chances with new marketing tactics. Besides, BK’s viral effort makes the perfect “meatball sundae” case study (puns intended all around).

  14. Point well taken.

    I purposely used the term “liberal thinking” to avoid the negative connotation and name calling implication that “liberal” or “conservative” implies.

  15. I think it is deeply worrying that the Second Amendment to the Constitution permits people with the level of intelligence shown by the majority of these customers to own handguns.

  16. PS: Burger King management seem to be in tune with the late HL Mencken’s opinion “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public”.

  17. [...] builds on His Majesty’s “Whopper Freakout” campaign by toning down the snark and continuing to feed our insatiable hunger for [...]

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