Burger King's Advertising Brilliance on Net Neutrality is Profound

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

What a time to be alive. Last week, Burger King released a commercial as profound as any of the films that were just nominated for Oscars. Turns out a subversive fast food commercial could have saved net neutrality, folks. If only it had been on time.

With more than a million views on YouTube, the new Burger King ad is a filmed prank. Inside a Burger King, cashiers sell Whoppers the same way we could soon be buying internet access now that net neutrality has been repealed. Using fast food customers as test subjects, the scenario plays out like a social experiment that students discuss in classrooms.

For months, some of the brightest minds on the planet were screaming from the rooftops about what could happen if net neutrality was repealed. The basic principle is that internet service providers should be prohibited from blocking or slowing access to websites and applications.

But the Federal Communications Commission removed this protection on December 14 and now ISPs are free to block or throttle content, which would allow them to handicap competitors and block political opinions they disagree with.

This is the type of issue that should have been of utmost concern to millions of Americans who stare at screens all day. But it is not something that can be easily explained in a sound bite. The details are confusing and the potential consequences are so ridiculously evil that it can sound like hyperbole.

But we now know that Whoppers should have been used to spread the word. The commercial starts with sidewalk interviews from random people who have no idea what net neutrality is. Then it cuts to a scene in a Burger King where an unhappy customer is being told his burger is taking so long because he bought the “Slow Access Whopper Pass.”

In this alternate reality, Burger King charges different prices for Whoppers based on speed, or MBPS (making burgers per second). Prices range from $4.99 (Slow Access) to $25.99 (Hyperfast). It’s “like a lane system,” as one customer says, where the high paying customers get top priority. Indeed, a guy who paid $26 for a Whopper gets instant access while other customers complain about a 25-minute wait.

This scenario mimics the very real future possibility that you could have to pay extra for “preferred access,” or for any access at all, to a site like Facebook or YouTube.

One of the cashiers even explains that this is a business technique to increase chicken sandwich sales by slowing access to Whoppers. Now that net neutrality is repealed, this idea references another possible future for consumers online. Your ISP could create a competitive advantage that influences your viewing habits by, for example, throttling Netflix and speeding up access to Hulu.

Another cashier tells angry customers that their Whoppers are ready, but they don’t have to hand them over yet because “Whopper Neutrality” was appealed. The premise is absurd, yet based on a true story.

There is no denying that this Burger King commercial is brilliant. When I first saw it, it made me think of The Yes Men and I thought it was an art project. But this is indeed a three-minute Burger King commercial that is hilarious, entertaining, engaging, and somehow very informative. It perfectly explains net neutrality, communicating more effectively than months of effort from journalists and social media warriors.

The commercial ends with a link to a petition urging the FCC to save Net Neutrality.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.