Why Burger King Gave These Funny Sleep Masks To Korean Commuters

Cheil Enlisted Sleepy Subway Passengers to Build Buzz for BK's Breakfasts

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Burger King's sleep mask for Seoul subway commuters
Burger King's sleep mask for Seoul subway commuters Credit: Cheil
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South Korea is one of the most sleep-deprived countries out there. And Seoul is known for epic work commutes. So people doze during their morning subway ride – the problem is how to wake up in time for their stop.

Burger King, which has 202 restaurants in Korea, just ran a small, targeted campaign in Seoul with a quirky answer to that dilemma.

The campaign from Cheil Worldwide offered sleep masks to commuters at five major stations in Seoul. Written across them was a message asking other commuters to wake them up at their particular stop. There were two coupons for free coffee inside the masks, so people could use one themselves and share the other with the person who woke them.

Morning sales at participating stores rose 18.7% in the month from the starting date, Feb. 23, Burger King said. And social-media chatter about the brand jumped 44.5% in the same period.

Burger King had asked Cheil for help boosting morning sales. (People didn't see the chain as a place to eat breakfast, and McDonald's dominated the morning fast-food market.) "Burger King was better known for burgers, so they wanted to promote coffee this time," said Hyungkyun Oh, Cheil art director.

The sleep mask had two coupons for free coffee inside.
The sleep mask had two coupons for free coffee inside. Credit: Cheil

The campaign stemmed from Cheil's simple observation about how tired people were during the morning commute. There's data to back that up. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, compared 18 developed countries last year and found that Koreans had the least sleep of all -- 469 minutes a day, compared to the average of 502. Meanwhile, commuting times of about an hour each way are common in Seoul.

The campaign was called "Breakfast Like a King," and it promoted a new coffee product, King Americano. It ran from Feb. 23 to April 15. Every time Burger King planned a mask handout, it announced its plans the day ahead of time on social media to build buzz. The brand is now running the campaign in South Korea's second biggest city, Busan.

"Agencies and marketers usually want to make connections between their consumers and the brand," said Sungphil Hwang, another Cheil art director. "For this one, the campaign also connected consumers to consumers" -- when subway passengers woke each other up, and when they shared the coupons. It was also just a way to make people laugh during the boring, tiring morning commute.