Fast Times

Burger King: The Prince of Ad Campaigns

Burger King recently announced a new ad campaign supporting the chain's "Fresh Offers" menu items. The ads feature celebrity spokespeople ordering off of the new, supposedly fresher and healthier menu. One of the ads featuring Mary J. Blige singing about fried chicken was quickly pulled because some found it racist.

"Exciting things are happening at Burger King," is the tagline of these ads, which begs the question: "Who is excited about anything ever happening at Burger King?"

Featuring "real fruit" smoothies, blended coffee drinks, snack wraps and salads, Burger King is clearly trying to appeal to an increasingly carb-conscious, health-minded consumer, and it's simply doing a terrible job.

The menu almost carbon-copies McDonald's recent McCafe menu. There is supposed to be an accent mark over the 'e' in "Cafe," but I purposefully left it out. McDonald's will never need an accent mark.

No one in their right mind should believe a (once) world-class athlete like David Beckham is ever going into Burger King for a smoothie. It's ridiculous. He's a 36-year-old man clinging to a professional soccer career, but he's also posing in Super Bowl ads for his own underwear line from H&M, showing his glistening, tattooed abs. How duplicitous of a spokesman can you be?

If the average viewer were to put their faith into the Beckham dogma, they'd be eating Whoppers in their underwear.

Burger King also has an ad featuring the timeless corporate shill Jay Leno, in which he drives one of his hundreds of classic, priceless cars into the store, orders a salad and passes it off to his passenger, almost insinuating that the food wasn't even for him. The whole ad is confusing, really. Why would anyone drive into a restaurant? I guess if you are Jay Leno, the usual rules don't apply.

Even if that was true, how is it appealing to your average television viewer? If anything, it points out how miserable and meager of an existence theirs is, compared to a guy who can get away with driving his car into a restaurant, ordering food, not paying for the food, cracking a dumb joke and leaving.

There is a marked cognitive disconnect going on. Why the hell would a millionaire celebrity who can afford a perfectly restored fleet of automobiles eat at Burger King? And why do we care?

Salma Hayek ('s cleavage) is featured in a Spanish-language version of the ads, donde cosas emocianantes estan pasado en Burger King. My favorite part of this particular ad is that the supporting cast of characters-- the actors playing the employees, specifically the fatherly manager-- are identical to the English versions, just darker. It's like Burger King thought that no one would notice how blatantly simple and ill-formed the campaign is.

Mary J. Blige's ad, which was quickly pulled, literally features a black person singing about fried chicken. How did this escape the focus groups? While I don't think their intention was to appeal to racial stereotypes, I also fail to see how that thought didn't occur to them, even if just a little bit.

David Beckham can sell underwear because he looks good in it, and he can sell soccer shoes because he has performed at the highest level, scoring goals for club and country in wonderful fashion. As a spokesman for fast food, though, he just rings a little disingenuous.

And Salma Hayek is certainly beautiful, but if you can picture her cramming a Whopper with cheese down her gullet, than you are more imaginative than I am.

BK's ads used to be funny and incredibly inventive, if not totally strange and alarming. If anything, the intent was to draw attention away from the food, which is possibly why the chain found so much success in recent years.

Tell us to eat it because it tastes good, it is cheap and readily available. Why waste money trying to convince us it's healthy, too?

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Sam Brown