Saturday, January 10, 2009

Unrelatedly, I Made Tortellini for Dinner

I’ve not taken any classes on developing ideas for commercials or advertisement schemes, and I don’t regret it, because frankly, the thought scares me a bit. I’ve read about the experiments that movie theatres have tried with subliminal advertising and the like, but I can’t say I know much more about advertising than that. While I’m not sure if there are any specific tenets of the advertising world that marketers shoot for, I’m fairly sure at least one has to be something to the effect of “Make It Stick.” Make your advertisement something the people will remember, something that will make them think of your name.

Right then, Burger King.

I’m not sure how many years ago it was, but someone sent me a link to a website run by Burger King, “Subservient Chicken,” or something like that. (What was the link? Maybe this? Sorry if the link’s broken.) A man in a (slightly discouraging) chicken suit stood before you in a living-room-type setting on a supposedly real-time webcam. You would type a command in the text box, and it would “send” “to the chicken,” and the chicken would perform the said action, or something similar, or otherwise react to what you say. Obviously, it wasn’t a perfect system, since there were only so many commands the chicken could accurately follow. I tried telling it to “Raise your right arm,” and it raised both. I told it to “Sit on the ground,” and it sat on the sofa. One fairly accurate reaction was when I told the chicken to “Take the chicken suit off,” and the chicken moved closer to the camera, and shook its head and wagged its finger at me. Which was freaky, because it wasn’t the friendliest-looking chicken to begin with. I’m not sure what exactly this was advertising, maybe their chicken sandwiches or something, but nonetheless, the promo stuck.

About the same time (probably before, now that I think of it), we saw the first commercials with Burger King’s now iconic “King,” a man in royal garb, but a plastic smiling face. The King would show up at various places, silently offering a sandwich or burger on a tray to an unsuspecting person. For example, a man woke up with the King next to him in bed, holding one of their breakfast sandwiches, with the narration, “Wake up with the King! Try our new” blah blah whatever. Reactions to King seemed to be mixed, so far as I can recall. People either loved him for his comedic charm, or hated him because of his general freakiness. Both are probably accurate descriptions, as I’ve occasionally found myself in both camps. One way or another, people talked about King, and the promo stuck.

I know there was another stunt by Burger King that I wanted to mention between this last month and the King’s debut, but I can’t remember it off the top of my head anymore (not sticking?). Anywho, this past month, NPR’s comedy news panel game, “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” (Dec. 21, 2008 episode) featured a story on a “last-minute gift idea for a guy with a big appetite,” “a cologne for carnivores,” “a top aroma of flame-broiled meat with notes of gristle, bun, and mayo.” Yes, “Flame,” Burger King’s new cologne. Odd enough as is, but it gets worse: “The website offering it is ‘’ [no hyperlink, since I haven’t checked it out myself]… it features Burger King’s spokes-monarch lying naked on a bear-skin rug in front of a fire, and beckoning you forward towards him… This may be a subtle campaign to sell more lunches, by forcing you to lose the one you already had.” I haven’t been to the website to check it out (nor does it sound at all appealing), so I’ll take their word for it. Nonetheless, as painful as it sounds, the promo stuck. (Notice a theme yet?)

It was just yesterday that my mom and I saw a commercial for “The Angry Whopper,” a burger with spicy onion petals and a few different peppers. The concept of spicy burgers isn’t exactly new, but the commercial had my tilting my head and wondering what could have possibly compelled them to make such a convoluted commercial. In it, a very angry farmer is shown planting seeds with disgust, beating them into the ground, watering them while yelling at them, throwing ground pepper on them while shouting, “Hot enough for ya?” In the end, these angry onions are apparently used in this new burger, where they are “looking to get their revenge.” (Shirt-and-tie man bites burger, starts running around like chicken-sans-head looking for water, etc.) Aside from the fact that I’m really not a fast food burger person (I go more for chicken), this was a commercial that genuinely turned me off. I in fact have absolutely no desire to eat this burger, and I think the commercial might have been the kiss of death. I love spicy foods (within reason), but this was just outright ridiculous. I could probably go on fuming about this for a while, but I think I’ve made my point, and it’s clear that this promo really stuck again.

Tonight then. I log on to the internet to find that two unrelated people have posted links on two different venues (a forum of a few local friends, and Facebook) to Burger King’s newest advertising scheme, the “Whopper Sacrifice.” If I understand this right, If you add a certain application on Facebook, you will get a coupon for a free Whopper if you unfriend ten people.

Okay then, where do I start with this? Let’s start with the Facebook side of this. I’m not a tremendous Facebook user to begin with. In fact, I didn’t get an account until after my freshman year of college, when I figured it’d help to keep in touch with people over the summer. Since then, I’ve been using Facebook as a utility, not a means of living. If I need to get a hold of someone and I can’t do so using a phone call or AIM, a PM on Facebook is my next way to go (not even a Wall post, I go straight to PM’s, because frankly, not every request or response for a person’s mailing address or whatnot needs to be public info). I’m incredibly passive when it comes to searching for people I know as friends, and I’ve often not accepted friend requests solely because I just don’t know the person well enough. I mean, I know my memory’s crap, but if I’ve never even heard of your name, much less if I still can’t recognize you even after a short description and a look through your profile, no offense, but I don’t see the need to add you. For me, Facebook is not a race to get as many friends as possible, it’s a utility.

This is why it often scares me when people freak out over small Facebook things, like an unfriending or someone getting “engaged” to a good friend, even jokingly. “It’s not official until it’s Facebook official” has become more than just an often-occuring quote, it’s a mantra for some. I understand that some people use Facebook as a form of entertainment, but to base one’s life around every byte of information that flows through that website just seems absurd to me.

Now then, the Whopper Sacrifice. First off, the sheer cruelty of asking someone to defriend someone for the sake of 1/10th of a coupon is a little disturbing to me. Not just because of the (anti-)social plotting one does deciding who they “hate the most” a/o “don’t need,” but for the fact that it’s for a burger. Seriously, kids, shell out the three bucks for the thing. Secondly (and I’m saying this part-sarcastically), It must be psychologically devestating to someone knowing they’ve been defriended for the sake of such a cheap burger. To say “Our relationship is worth less than thirty cents toward a meal” is a kick in the pants to anyone. On the whole, if this thing becomes viral (and I suppose it already has), I expect to see a lot of angry vendettas against “former friends,” and maybe even some lawsuits thrown in Burger King’s direction.


My honest thoughts on Burger King, in terms of food: Not too bad. I usually get the Chicken Sandwich with cheese, which tastes good, although the price seems a bit steep. The fries are good, they tend to be crispier than most other fast food joints. I can’t say much positive for their breakfasts, since most of what I’ve tried has left me feeling iffy afterwards (namely, the Cheesy BK Wrapper and the Ham Omelet Sandwich), and they only offer one size of orange juice, which is inconvenient. Burger King’s got its hits and misses as far as food goes, so I’d give it a middle-of-the-road rating.

Burger King’s advertising? Clearly over the last few years, they’ve really gone for the outlandish approach, with freaky mascots and questionable advertising gimmicks (I forgot to mention the “Whopper Virgins” campaign, which I really don’t know much about). Their aim has not been to necessarily market their products in an entirely appealing way, but at the very least, in a very memorable way, a sticky way. How sticky? Look at what you’ve just read. I’ve outlined several of their promos from memory (although I had to replay the “Wait Wait” bit a few times so I could copy the exact quotes), and I’ve engaged in and encouraged discussion on the topic. Burger King’s stuck to me, although not in a positive way, but it’s stuck in my mind strongly enough that I’ve written an entire blog post about them, essentially promoting both their products and their advertising campaign, which means it’s extremely effective, and they’ll likely produce more campaigns like this because of reactions like this, and now I feel like such a corporate whore.


But yeah, I tried using a roasted red pepper alfredo sauce with the tortellini. Kinda runny, but good flavor to it.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

That's it. I'm unfriending you for a Whopper. You made my selection process SOOOOO much easier.