New Effort May Help Reverse Years of Bad Strategy

By Published on .

March 5, 2001

Advertiser: Burger King
Agency: McCann-Erickson Worldwide
Ad Review rating: Three stars

Burger king isn't in pitiful condition because it's on its seventh agency in 15 years. Burger King is on its seventh agency in 15 years because, no matter who owns the chain at the moment, it's always in pitiful condition.

Maybe, at long last, the new campaign from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide will provide some stability.

The Whopper says...
In one new spot, the scene is a dorm room, or shared apartment, where three young guys are eating Burger King takeout in front of the tube. Two of them dig right in, but the third gets up.

"Napkins," he says, and leaves the room -- whereupon his pals, eyeing his Whopper and fries, pounce. Before he gets back, they've pigged out on big mouthfuls of his lunch.

Then the voice-over, belonging to Patrick Warburton-David Puddy of Seinfield fame: "The Whopper says, 'Any food left unattended is community property.'"

"In the land of burgers, the flame-broiled Whopper is king."

Now the third guy is back to survey the damage. He continues to eat, but he's disgusted. "That's so wrong," he says.

Of course, the situational ethics iterated by the commercial say the incident was perfectly kosher -- like the five-second rule for dropped-on-the-floor cookies cited in that wonderful VW Passat spot. But leave us not worry too much about logical inconsistencies in the text, or else we'd also wonder why the two hungry friends would drop their own barely touched Whoppers to take advantage of their roomie's carelessness. Now, if they'd been sitting there after finishing their own lunches...

The burger is the hero
Never mind. Overall, this is a very good TV spot. For starters, the food photography makes the Whopper look scrumptious -- or, as Puddy liked to say, "scrump." The characters are smack dead center of the 18- to 24-year-old male target audience, and the couch-potato, slacker lifestyle recalls another VW classic for this demographic, the Golf spot titled "Dah dah dah." Most of all, the ad isn't merely a venue for some clever yet irrelevant joke. The product is very much the hero.

At least, the sandwich is. One guy eats the Whopper, but the other sneaks some fries -- which, come to think of it, is another unlikely scenario. Everyone knows Burger King's fries suck.

In fact, one of the reasons Burger King is so pitifully in the tank is that its fry recipe -- launched only three years ago -- was a colossal failure. Hence the focus on the chain's marquee entree, pending yet another fries relaunch next month.

Even the endframes hammer home the flame-broiled message. As the product close-up pans right to left off the screen, a puff of fire flames up, like a gas grill being lit, and forms a flaming crown. The spots are in no way busy or overwrought, and the agency has not missed a single trick. The advertising is quintessential without being clichE-ridden, and it's hard to beat that.

A beautiful gift
The second commercial actually is better. It's set in an office, where one young worker reads an anniversary card from his significant other.

"'Thinking of you,'" he reads, choked up. "'Love always, Jennifer.'"

"They're beautiful," says one of his colleagues, three of whom are huddled around his desk admiring the bouquet the card accompanied.

"Mmmm," one woman says, "They smell so nice!"

"You're a lucky man," offers a third, tenderly.

Cut to the gift itself: a bountiful basket of ... Whoppers, tied in a bow.

Now Warburton's voice: "The Whopper says, 'Nothing says "I love you" like flame-broiled beef.'"

Once again, the joke isn't wet-your-pants hilarious, but it is creditable, and all about the product. In fact, the basket of burgers -- to the unsentimental among us (i.e., all men) -- seems like not such a bad idea. This is reflected in the kicker, in which one of the colleagues says to the anniversary boy, "You mind if I called her?" That happens to be not very funny, but it's worth it as a set up for the third worker's mincing, disapproving tsk.

"That's so wrong," would make sense coming out of his mouth, too. It's nice, however, after so many years of bad strategy and worse execution, for that sentiment to be part of the commercial instead of commentary about it.

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