Response to BK's 'Whopper Virgins' Short of a Freakout

Early Web Traffic Is Still Better Than That of Earlier Viral Stunt but Chain Gets Some Bad Buzz too

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Burger King's "Whopper Virgins" are going viral, just as the fast feeder intended. But while the cheeky campaign has yet to take off, early numbers and engagement with the videos is promising, according to an online tracking group.

Burger King declined to release specific traffic information, but said that first-week site visits to Whoppervirgins.com exceeded the number of first-week site visits to Whopperfreakout.com.
Burger King declined to release specific traffic information, but said that first-week site visits to Whoppervirgins.com exceeded the number of first-week site visits to Whopperfreakout.com.
It's still early, but the chain's new campaign appears to have good traction online. According to Visible Measures, a group that rates engagement for viral videos, the Burger King documentary released Monday has been uploaded more than 30 times on five different video sites. At least 80% of these placements are user-generated, meaning that the video has been copied, re-posted or remixed. In aggregate, these placements have received over 130,000 views and more than 450 comments.

Early traffic tops 'Freakout'
The data does not include Burger King's traffic at WhopperVirgins.com. Burger King declined to release specific traffic information, but said that first-week site visits to Whoppervirgins.com exceeded the number of first-week site visits to Whopperfreakout.com. Whopper Freakout eventually managed to boost sales of the chain's marquee menu item.

Burger King spokeswoman Lauren Kuzniar said WhopperVirgins.com traffic was up 130% on Saturday and Sunday. She credited the teasers for the documentary's release that had run online all last week. Ms. Kuzniar added that 3% of views have been on mobile devices; this is the first time that mobile has registered in the company's data.

So while the virgins have yet to break out, the signs are good, said Visible Measures. "While the viewer numbers are still relatively small, the amount of placement activity is relatively high, particularly for 30-second repurposed TV spots," said Matt Cutler, VP-marketing and analytics. "[It's] tough to tell at this stage if the campaign will take off, but viral placement activity is an encouraging first step in the process."

Mr. Cutler pointed out that the campaign is already generating conversation, with more than 100 Technorati results and more than 500 Google results.

But to really get going, he said, it's going to take time. "You don't usually see a video with millions of views in the snap of a finger," he said. "It gets out there, it gets viewed, copies spread, word spreads behind it, and it gets copied, and accumulates views, so you see more of an S curve." Right now, he said, "we're at the base of the S."

Brand rep takes a hit?
Not surprisingly, the campaign has offended some people. According to BrandIndex, Burger King has been building positive buzz since mid-October from a ranking in the mid-teens to the low-20s more recently, "but [this] campaign seems to be interrupting that positive momentum," said Ted Marzilli senior VP-brand group at BrandIndex parent YouGovPolimetrix. He added that Burger King does not appear to be reaching that many new people with the campaign, though the ones it does have been talking about the campaign -- and not necessarily in a good way.

Positive chatter has fallen from 24 on Dec. 1 to 20 yesterday and Mr. Marzilli said that women are reacting negatively to the campaign. Good buzz among the ladies has fallen from 25 to 17 over the same nine-day period. Positive buzz is up with men (which generally comprise the company's core target of "Super Fans"), but only slightly, from 21 to 23. Perhaps most surprisingly, good buzz is down significantly among young people aged 18 to 34, the company's core demographic.

"Really, you paid people for this marketing campaign?" video blogger Phil Defranco asked in a posting with more than 500,000 views. "People who their palette has been accustomed to ... rocks?"

But comments like that must still be music to the fast feeder's ears. To a provocateur like Burger King and its agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the only bad buzz is no buzz.

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