Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Witz Pickz: Burger King Unabashedly Going Too Far

There's a thin line between clever advertising and blatant, transparent manipulation. I'm applauding Burger King for crossing the line from the former to the latter and unabashedly going too far with their current ad campaign. For those of you who haven't seen the commercials, Burger King's new ad campaign is allegedly live recorded footage of customers going ape-shit when they are told that Burger King now functions differently. First, they told people that they no longer had the Whopper. Footage showed customers getting ripshit and demanding a Whopper. "What do you mean you don't have the Whopper??" what the typical response, with some solid bleeps and blurs thrown in to raise the stakes. Then they stamped down a statement saying something to the extent of, "People went crazy," which it appears they did. Kind of.

Because everything is even more clear in the most recent commercial. In this new commercial, Burger King goes beyond just not serving their #1 selling item, they actually give the customers the competition's food. Somebody orders a Whopper and they get a Big Mac. Somebody orders a double cheeseburger and they get Wendy's patties. One get yells, "I don't want a @($$ing Big Mac! This is Burger King! I want a $*%in' WHOPPER!" Because you see, that's what he ordered. Another customer gets worked up because he has Wendy's square patties. So the commercial essentially boils down (bRoils down, if you will, aha-ha) to "When people are given our competitor's food, they flip out because it is not as good as our food." Only that's not quite right, is it? There are three things that stand out in these ads:

1) America is fat and spoiled. Emphasis on the fat, but highlight the spoiled.

2) The footage might very well be faked. If it's not faked, then it is probably drawn from a huuuge number of hours of footage in numerous franchises around the country. I'm guessing that 99% of the people ate what they were given and liked it. I'm not saying everyone didn't notice, but I bet a lot of people said, "Oh, huh, square patty, whatever" and kept eating, and a bunch probably said, "Fuck it, I'll eat what I'm given, it's all the same shit." There might have been a few people who didn't notice because they were just so hungry or in need of a grease/fat fix, they didn't care what it was. Either way, I'm guessing the angry flipout was the minority response.

3) And this is the big one here: The responses were completely legitimate, regardless of the preference of burger. Let me explain.

This footage was taken when customers gave money for an item and were handed an item that they did not order. That's the first strike. Now imagine this: you go into a fast food restaurant. You order something from the pimply, awkward, sick of his job kid behind the counter and moments later he hands you a bag. You open the bag and you realize that, shit, once again, the kid who you assume doesn't give a shit about customer service, messed up your order. You go back to the counter and tell him that instead of a Whopper, he gave you A BIG MAC. This kid must not only be apathetic, he must be pathological-- a sociopath of the fast food world. But THEN, when you TELL the kid that he gave you a Big Mac, HE DOESN'T CARE. He does not register any remorse, conflicted feeling, or acknowledgement of problem. He just stares at you and says, "What's the problem?" WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?? Burger King videotaped people being given the wrong food and getting upset about it. I don't know if that's genius or insanity, but it's definitely going too far and probably slightly illegal (although technically, they did do what they said they did and people DID respond the way they did. The two just aren't entirely related). Way to go, BK, you've harnessed the power of idiots.

WITZ DOESN'T PICK: Mac Ads (still)

On the other side of the spectrum is Apple, still being douchey to an apparently innocent, well-intentioned nerd. I need them to get over it. I do. Because I seemingly can't. This time, PC and Mac are standing in the white space with a football referee. PC says it's so that the ref can deem Mac's calling Leopard better than Vista foul play. Mac mentions that it wasn't Mac who said it, it was, like, The Wall Street Journal. Then the ref agrees with Mac, and PC is thrown out into the void. I'm sold. Seriously Mac, nothing makes me more hot for Apple than beating a dead horse-- or more appropriately, kicking a fat, pretentious character actor when he's down. And it's not like they're pulling out big left hooks anymore. They're just sending out wild swings with not much power behind them. The Wall Street Journal says we're better than PC? Really? Is that enough to base an ad around? Next we're gonna have Mac and PC hanging out in a school yard and Mac will tell PC to fuck off.

"Why" PC will ask.
"Because my friends and Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day say you're a fag."
"Huh?" PC will ask.
"Yeah, you're a big nerdy, fat sack of queer, PC."
"Can I point out my substantial market share?"
"Is that what you call your boyfriend's cock?" Mac will taunt.
"Huh? I thought you were hip and cool, not pretentious and mean..."
"Ha! I'm a hipster computer! We're hip and cool BECAUSE we're prententious and mean!"
"PC, are you even listening?"
"Huh, what? Oh, sorry, I must have spaced out while not worrying about you as a competitor at all. I like to fall asleep at night by counting Bill Gates' cars."
"You can sleep at night? I don't even know how I live with myself..."

And so on and so forth. I like to think that since people don't like smear campaigns, in politics or elsewhere, these ads are responsible for Apple stock's 20 point drop in the last week. Either that or the stock market is actually heading toward that recession everyone's been talking about. Whatever-- I'm still buying Apple stock while it's low. Hells yeah I am.

Fingers Crossed,

1 comment:

wonderyak said...

First, and just as a matter of economics, I can almost guarantee that the Burger King ads are staged. Think of the expense of having to shoot hundreds of hours of footage (and then having to go through and EDIT said footage) versus just hiring 20 actors and pretending the footage is fake. In terms of budget, we're talking a difference of a least an order of magnitude.

Given that, I am torn. One the one hand, I kind of like that the performances are relatively understated - I believe that's what gives the ads their realism. Most of the people just seem perplexed by the situation. Nice pseudo-subtlety.

But then there's the tag-line: "People freaked."

Which brings me to the other hand. To maximize the comedy of the premise, and to reconcile the tag-line with the actual commercial, the "customers" should have actually freaked out! Think of the fun if someone in the drive-thru lane gets out of their car and starts beating the shit out of the microphone-menu-board (is there an official name for those things?) or starts crying that the Whopper is no more and drives, teary-eyed, into oncoming traffic. Now that's "freaking"!

But then there's the King campaign they have, which I think is absolutely, positively, no-questions-asked brilliant. I have actually stopped fast-forwarding through ads on the TiVo just to see the one with the Angry Mothers trying to run The King down.

But anyway. What I came here to say was this: I am really happy to see Burger King trying something different - perhaps the Freakout ads aren't a total success, but they are such a welcome departure from your standard Burger Beauty Shot ads. Success or not, at least it's clear that effort and creativity was involved.

And honestly, that's enough to make me hungry for a greasy, disgusting meal. ;-)