Burger King's Horrible, Creepy Ad Campaign Isn't Working

To the surprise of nobody, Burger King's horrible, creepy advertisement campaign is not working, and the company finds itself falling further behind McDonald's according to just-released figures. This strikes a huge blow to the idea that what Americans want from their fast food joint is a Bobblehead King doll who sneaks into your bed, raps about square butts, and terrorizes you from outside your bedroom window. Yes, those were advertisements for hamburgers.

In other words, thank you America, for compelling our elites to put the strategic back into strategic advertising.


Gawker has been on this story for a while, and they point out that the advertisement firm in charge of creeping out the country was the award-winning team at Crispin Porter Bogusky. Unfortunately for BK and Crispin, they don't award marketshare at advertisement gatherings and in this most crucial category, the company is not keeping track:

Between 2003 -- the year before Burger King hired Crispin as agency of record -- and 2008, Burger King's share of the burger-chain market fell to 14.2% from 15.6%, according to Technomic, while McDonald's share rose to 46.8% from 43.6%. McDonald's has posted average annual sales growth of 6.3% compared with BK's 2.9% gain during that period.

McDonald's is a behemoth, so maybe catching up isn't possible, with or without a marketing campaign that seems designed to scare children. But really, the main lesson here is that people should stop trying to make fast food cool. It's a convenience, not a social indicator. But instead of doing something very boring -- advertising human food with humans and food, rather than an overgrown mannequin charming his way out of restraining orders --  BK gave us gems like the Burger King Flame Body Spray. Because what every young Americans secretly desires is to make possible this exchange:

Girl: "What are you wearing?"
Boy: "Burger King."
Girl: "Marry me?"

In memorium, here's one of the worst commercials I've ever seen:


Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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