NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Controversy bubbling up from Burger King's Whopper advertising has finally gotten a little too hot for the marketer.
The fast feeder has agreed to revise a campaign created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky and airing in Europe for the Texican Whopper, after a Mexican diplomat called it offensive to Mexicans and damaging to the country's image.
The 30-second spot and print ads feature an American cowboy alongside a small lucha libre wrestler donning a cape that resembles the Mexican flag. Blogger Laura Martinez, who contributes to Ad Age's Big Tent, criticized the spot on her own blog.
The work is part of a European push for Burger King's Texican Whopper -- a twist on the chain's classic Whopper sandwich that's only available abroad. (In case you were wondering what it is: a flame-grilled patty topped with chili con carne, spicy jalapenos, onion, crispy lettuce and Cajun mayonnaise, all on a sesame-seed bun. A double Whopper with two patties is also available, as are Texican onion rings, which are like the standard ones but served with a spicy Mexican salsa.)
According to media reports in Mexico, Ambassador Jorge Zermeno penned a letter to Burger King's Spanish operations stating the "advertisement denigrates the image of our country and uses improperly Mexico's national flag." He noted that Mexico has strict laws barring the defamation of the flag.
BK: Revision coming ASAP
"Burger King Corp. values and respects all of its guests as well as the countries and communities we serve," a Burger King spokeswoman said in a statement. "With regard to the Texican Whopper advertisement shown in Spain and the United Kingdom, it was our intention to promote a product whose culinary origin lies in both the American and Mexican cultures, and was meant to appeal to those who enjoy the flavors and ingredients that each country offers." She added that revised creative will be on air "as soon as commercially possible."
Representatives for Crispin, which handles the chain's advertising in the U.S., and in certain global markets such as the U.K., Germany and Spain, declined to comment.
If any agency is accustomed to controversy it's Crispin, and particularly when it comes to its Burger King client (just last week it angered advocacy groups over a "SpongeBob" BK commercial), so the vow to revise the Texican Whopper creative work is an unusual move.
Burger King's contentious marketing has become a signature of its brand, and in some cases has helped boost the fast feeder's sales.
"Whopper Freakout" was a series of documentary-style ads and accompanying web video in which Burger King workers told consumers the Whopper had been discontinued. The ads drove buzz and resulted in a double-digit sales increase for the sandwich in late 2007 and early 2008.
Another campaign last December, christened "Whopper Virgins," met with more resistance though, and seemed to have less of an impact on sales and positive buzz for the brand.
Local issues in global society
The larger issue debated by those in ad circles revolves around just how local "local executions" of global campaigns really are in an increasingly globalized society, particularly in cases when the work is deemed offensive.
One year ago an ad for Absolut vodka created by TBWA provoked the ire of American bloggers, after a print ad that ran only in Mexico as part of the international "In an Absolut World" campaign inflamed U.S. anti-immigration factions, detonated racist comments and called for a boycott of the vodka. The campaign was later pulled.