Not content to let its international ad campaigns make fun of Mexicans or degrade women, Burger King is now offending members of one of the world's oldest religions and its third largest. According to ABC, Spanish Burger King restaurants are using marketing material that shows the Hindu goddess Lakshmi sitting on top of a ham sandwich. You know, because nothing says "We respect your faith" like portraying a sacred figure of a mostly vegetarian religion sitting on top a quarter pound of charred flesh.
But it's good to see Burger King is passing the offensive duties around. While main agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky was responsible for upsetting Mexicans, a Singaporean agency produced the fellatio-fest ad, and this latest bit of genius was created by a locally-based Spanish agency, according to Burger King. (Interestingly, in both this case and the sexed-up sandwich case, BK didn't name the local agency.)
I'm not a man of faith, but I'd think marketers would know enough to steer clear of this sort of thing -- even if the resulting outrage does get you a load of free press in the U.S. Here's a helpful tip for agencies and marketers alike when deciding to play with such imagery: Before setting a religious figure down on paper in an ad campaign, substitute Jesus or, better yet, the Prophet Muhammad. Now, would you give that the green light? No, you wouldn't. So why are you doing it with any other religion?
Here's BK's official response (with editorial commentary): "Burger King Corporation values and respects all of its guests as well as the communities we serve (You certainly have a funny way of showing it). This in-store advertisement was running to support a limited-time-only local promotion for three restaurants in Spain and was not intended to offend anyone (Oh, well that makes it perfectly OK, then, doesn't it). Out of respect for the Hindu community, the in-store advertisement has been removed from the restaurants (Translation: We were caught, and it's creating a PR headache, so we guess we'll go ahead and take it down. We would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids at the Hindu American Foundation!).