Did Telling a Whopper Sell the Whopper?

The Jury Is Still Out, but BK's Burger-Denial Ads Rake in Big Recall Numbers

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Burger King's "Whopper Freakout" is on track to become the best-recalled ad in more than five years.

That's according to IAG Research, which pegs the spots, which began running in December, as the most-recalled during the first two weeks of 2008.
Freaking out: BK's video has gotten 1.5 million views since last month.
Freaking out: BK's video has gotten 1.5 million views since last month.
If they continue on that trajectory, said R. Daniel Dahlen, exec VP-restaurants and retail, "I can make a pretty educated guess that these have to become one of the most impressive performance numbers we've ever seen" in IAG's six years of tracking tens of thousands of commercials.

And that's not counting online views. Burger King says its eight-minute, documentary-style video at whopperfreakout.com has gotten 1.5 million views since it was posted last month. (Still, that's well behind some standouts, such as Dove's "Evolution," which racked up 12 million views in its first month.)

Five-fold success
According to ComScore, "Whopper Freakout" drew 250,000 unique visitors in December, about five times what spokesman Andrew Lipsman said is considered successful. "My reaction is that's pretty strong," he said. "Most people aren't going to come to these sites naturally through the internet."

The more crucial question, though, isn't whether people are watching or recalling spots; it's whether the spots are motivating them to buy Whoppers. On that score, it can't be judged yet. Burger King said it does not discuss sales between quarters.

The TV spots, from Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, Miami, focus on reactions at a Nevada Burger King where workers told customers the Whopper was off the menu. Some get angry while others wax nostalgic. One says: "The day I could finish a Whopper by myself, I was a man." Another says, "They might as well change their name to Burger Queen."

"As we were huddled on the trailer watching the monitors, it was something I wished every operator, every franchisee could witness as I did," said Brian Gies, VP-marketing impact for the burger chain. "It was so compelling, the passion they had for our brand, you get goosebumps. You're hearing their reaction played out to you, but not in a focus group that's sterilized, where people know they're being subjected to research."

Switching out burgers
Taking things up a notch during the second day of filming, the crew gave customers burgers from Wendy's and McDonald's when Whoppers were ordered. Store employees explained they couldn't possibly have made a fried burger or a square patty. Just as the customers get ready to take a swing, the King character comes out and presents the them with a Whopper on a silver platter. That video is posted online.

"We always thought it would be successful, but this has been above and beyond," said Rob Reilly, creative director on Burger King's account. "We went in hoping it was going to be great. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive."

The agency developed the campaign as part of the Whopper's 50th-anniversary celebration.

Consumer-generated takeoffs on "Whopper Freakout" have been showing up on YouTube, which Mr. Reilly said is the sincerest form of flattery, especially since the company didn't provide software for customers to make their own.
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