BK Says 'Freakout' Drove Spike in Sandwich Sales

Whopper Posted Double-Digit Increase Over Last Year

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Burger King's "Whopper Freakout" campaign drove sales of the big burger up double digits, the company told investors today.
Scenes from a 'Whopper Freakout,' an ad effort the burger chain says drove up sales for the sandwich.
Scenes from a 'Whopper Freakout,' an ad effort the burger chain says drove up sales for the sandwich.

"In December, we kicked off the Whopper 50th-anniversary celebration with our innovative Whopper-free media campaign, driving significant brand relevance and incremental sales," Burger King CEO John Chidsey said during a fiscal-second-quarter earnings call with analysts today. "In fact, the Whopper line posted double-digit sales over the prior-year period."

The company made a point of crediting "Freakout" for driving sales of the premium-price sandwich at a time when many customers are making dollar-menu purchases.

Best-recalled in five years
As reported earlier, buzz over the documentary-style ads from Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, Miami, has reached a fever pitch since they first aired in December. The ads are on track to become the best-recalled ads in five years, according to IAG Research, and have about twice the average likability rating. WhopperFreakout.com, the campaign's website with extended video, got 250,000 unique visitors in December, according to ComScore. That's about five times what's needed to qualify as successful. By mid-January, Burger King said the site had gotten 1.5 million views.

Consumer-generated, copycat versions of the commercials are popping up on YouTube. Several versions feature people yelling at their video cameras about how much they love the Whopper. Others are more involved, including a "ghetto Whopper freakout" set in Detroit with men pulling up to the drive thru and fighting with the attendant.

Slow traffic ahead
In addition to defying ad expectations, Burger King's results defied current industry norms. The fast-feeder's second-quarter same-store sales were remarkably strong, up 4.2%, while competitors' are showing signs of weakening. Though McDonald's posted a 3.3% increase in fourth-quarter U.S. same-store sales Monday, it warned of slowing traffic leading into 2008. Starbucks posted a 1% increase in same-store sales Wednesday, adding that the company will stop reporting same-store sales while it works out the kinks in its business.

But if McDonald's is sneezing, Burger King hasn't caught a cold. "Comps were strong throughout the quarter and remained strong even accelerating into January," Mr. Chidsey said. "We have not and are not seeing a slowdown."

Mr. Chidsey also credited home-style melts with increased sales.
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