Waking Up With a Truly Creepy Bed Partner

By Published on .

Client: Burger King
Agency: Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami
Star Rating: 1.0

Ignore this.

Ignore it, because once upon a time, we excoriated a new Burger King campaign and were widely blamed when the agency lost the then $200 million account.

Burger King's new 'king' is one of the creepiest characters to ever appear in a TV commercial.

Wasn't our fault; it was a conspiracy of incompetence between the marketer and N.W. Ayer. But the charge has festered ever since, and for 18 years we've found ourselves being overly solicitous of Burger King campaigns from the 50 or 60 successor agencies who've taken a stab at the business -- failures one and all.

Optimism is not natural
If only we'd been harsher; Ad Review straining to see the glass half full is simply not a natural state of affairs. At this point, frankly, where this advertiser is concerned, we no longer differentiate between optimism and guilt. So it's liberating to observe the following:

The BK spot from Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, titled "Wake Up With the King," features one of the creepiest characters we've ever seen on television, and that includes Dick Cheney. The vignettes open with some guy rousing himself from slumber on a lazy suburban morning to find the Burger King -- the monarch himself -- sitting on the bed.

His majesty's face is frozen in a sickly grin. His head is far out of proportion to his body, like a Tyrannosaurus Rex or Jay Leno. He says not one word, but turns and produces a double Croissan'wich, "egg and meat and cheese, and meat and cheese," says the voice-over. "That's right. Wake up with the king."

Here's a better idea: Wake up covered in blood with a horse's head under the sheets. It's a less disconcerting experience.

At least the food looks good
Look, the food photography is OK; the sandwich looks suitably hearty and filling. And the sound design -- chirping birds, barking dog and lawn mower in the distance -- is superb. The problem is that King Burger is grotesque. Why the guy in the pajamas doesn't let out a blood-curdling scream, a la Jack Woltz in The Godfather, is a mystery.

But we did.

Remember the Puttermans, the battery-operated family Duracell assaulted us with a decade ago? Remember how all of America couldn't bear to watch them? Well, first of all, next to this Burger King character, the Puttermans were the Family Von Trapp. And furthermore, they were repulsive promoting batteries. The King is repulsive selling food.

The inherent risk of weird
Bad idea. Ad Review went out on a limb not long ago suggesting that the weirdness of Quizno's "spongmonkey" characters would so impress the 15-year-old target that it would trump the inherent risk of advertising sandwiches with singing vermin carcasses. We were incorrect.

Oh, the kids were impressed all right, but the grownups all gagged, especially the franchisees. Hence, the axiom: When advertising foodstuffs, endeavor, wherever possible, not to make the audience's flesh crawl.

We could be wrong again, of course. The other possibility is that, as usual with Burger King, the one star is just too kind.

~ ~ ~
Bob Garfield's book And Now a Few Words from Me, is now out in paperback by McGraw-Hill.

Most Popular