Burger King gets flamed for Twitch marketing stunt
What was likely hatched as a clever ad campaign for Burger King has instead upset the audience the Whopper-maker was trying to reach.
The campaign—created by Ogilvy-owned agency David Madrid—ran last July and only lasted a few hours on Twitch. It resurfaced last week, however, after the company tweeted a video (above) promoting its work.
The video, which now has more than a million views with no paid media behind it, shows how the agency exploited Twitch’s donation feature to promote Burger King’s $5 value meal without paying anything meaningful for its advertising. In fact, much of the effort was executed by a bot.
The issues stems from a feature that allows Twitch viewers to have a typed message read out loud by a computer whenever they donate money to a streamer. In this case, the agency targeted popular streamers and used a bot to donate $5 (the cost of a Burger King value meal) to have its message read out loud to everyone watching. David Madrid also captured the streamer's reaction to include in its promotional video.
“I donated five bucks so I can say that on the Burger King app you can get a Whopper, small french fries and a small drink for $5,” a computerized voice said during one of the streams.
Streamers eventually caught wind of the marketing stunt and called out both Burger King and Ogilvy for placing such a small value ($5) for using their content to sell hamburgers. Their fans quickly followed suit. Some streamers even banned Burger King from their channels.
“This activation was meant to be a fun-spirited experiment on the platform using a new functionality,” David Madrid said in an emailed statement to Ad Age. “While it was well-received by the players we engaged with, we value and respect the recent feedback from the Twitch community.”
‘It may win awards’
The agency’s misstep is significant, as advertisers in recent months have been drawn to Twitch given its ridiculous growth since social distancing guidelines were put in place—more than 5 billion hours streamed in the second quarter, up 2,662 percent year-over-year. Burger King’s marketing stunt, however, should serve as a warning of what not to do when advertising on the platform.
“Hacking Twitch for a cheap marketing stunt will win awards for the agency, but it won’t win the hearts and minds of gamers for Burger King,” says Chris Erb, CEO of gaming-focused agency Tripleclix, whose clients include brands such as Kellogg’s and Mondelēz.
Unlike other audiences, consumers in the video game arena are very discerning, protective and don’t appreciate marketing stunts that disrupt their experiences or minimize the work of their favorite streamers, according to Erb.
“Seeing a giant brand like Burger King coming into the space and marginalizing both the audience and the talent certainly doesn’t land well with the people they are trying to market to,” says Erb. “For brands to have success with these consumers they need to build relationships with gamers and not market to them.”
Meanwhile, Sarah Iooss, head of sales for the Americas at Twitch, echoed a similar sentiment during an interview with Ad Age last week. “If you’re just running ads on Twitch, but aren’t on the platform, it doesn’t work well,” Iooss said.