Burger King is giving U.S. customers who dare to stop by "scary places" a free Whopper for Halloween. But those places aren't haunted houses or graveyards; they are rivals' abandoned fast-food restaurants.
The campaign, via MullenLowe, centers on five shuttered restaurants, located in Dayton, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Birmingham, Alabama; McHenry, Illinois and Johnston, Rhode Island. The idea: that the scariest thing imaginable is a burger outlet that didn't flame grill.
The brand will share the exact coordinates of the restaurants through its various social media channels and via www.bk.com/scaryplaces. Customers who drive by them will be able to download a coupon for a free Whopper on their BK app and redeem it either for delivery or at a restaurant. And if you don’t live nearby, you can still redeem a $5 meal offer.
The promotion starts today and will run until Halloween. (Customers shouldn't forget to read the small print, which states that the abandoned restaurants are private properties and you shouldn't trespass.)
It's not the first time Burger King has used Halloween to poke fun at the "scariness" of rivals; in previous years, several campaigns have taken the opportunity to style McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald as a "scary clown." This time around, it's not just the Golden Arches in the firing line; a Burger King spokesperson said the abandoned restaurants belonged to "all different" companies.
"We always try to do something fun for Halloween," says Fernando Machado, Global CMO of Burger King parent RBI. "Our brand is a fun brand which loves a good prank. So, naturally, Halloween has a strong fit. Also, our fans love when we play with our competitors. So this campaign does a bit of both. It aims to be tongue-in-check and play with closed locations portraying them as haunted places."
Though we don't know the reasons that the restaurants closed down, highlighting business closures during an economic downturn, however, is a move that might now seem insensitive to companies that have shuttered or struggled due to COVID.
In response Machado says that "the pandemic has been a pretty doom and gloom period. As a brand we have a fun personality and we always aim to bring smiles to people. We are bold, self-deprecating, and a little bit out there. The fast-food industry is actually doing ok during the pandemic. And the restaurants we showed have been closed for way longer than the pandemic. So hopefully most people will understand our real intend behind this specific piece of creative."