The best Burger King ads that burned its rivals
The best Burger King ads are characterized by a provocative tone of voice, tongue-in-cheek humor and unflinching social commentary. As McDonald’s cheeky younger brother, the burger brand relishes any opportunity to publicly grill both competitors and celebrities alike – yes Kanye, we are talking about you.
L-R: BK: 'Very Scary', BK: 'The Big King', BK: 'Burn that Ad', BK: 'Opinions x Prejudice'
This list looks at Burger King’s most sizzling advertising burns, from the most daring to the emboldening. Here’s our top 10.
'Whopper Secret' (2019)
At the end of 2019, Burger King amplified its rivalry with McDonald's by positioning its Whopper burger as the bigger and better option over McDonald's, rival Big Mac burger. The 'Whopper Secret' revealed that there had been a Big Mac concealed behind every Whopper in a Burger King ad that year, but due to the superior size of the Whopper, they had all been eclipsed from sight.
The stunt, overseen by BBH London, was the latest in a long line of McDonald's-targeted ads by Burger King that sees the two brands go head to head with one another.
‘Burn that Ad’ (2019)
Stepping up its presence in the South American market, recent years have seen Burger King gain ground on its rival McDonald’s in Brazil. The fast food retailer launched an app earlier this year to encourage people to ‘burn’ its rivals’ ads – in augmented reality of course. This activation would make a BK ad appear in the competitor’s place and the user would be directed to the nearest restaurant to claim a free Whopper. An advertising win, this app creates an interactive interface between the brand and its customers while also capturing the essence of Burger King’s trademark sense of humor.
The ad was created by David SP.
Burger King’s ads are usually colored by the brand’s well-documented rivalry with McDonald’s, but earlier this year the burger chain extended its aim to unsuspecting fried chicken chain KFC.
Launching its first grilled chicken sandwich took Burger King into KFC country. The copycat ad opens with jangly bluegrass banjo strings, voiced over by a heavily southern-accented narrator talking about flame-grilling chicken. The camera pans up to reveal the Burger ‘King’ himself fitted out in full Colonel Sanders regalia and declaring himself the ‘KFG’- King of Flame Grilling. The jokes don’t stop there; the narrator goes on to quip that ‘the king always outranks the colonel’ and describes the sandwich as ‘flame-grilled good’ – a deliberate play on KFC’s ‘it’s finger-lickin’ good’ tagline.
Burger King teamed up with agency MullenLowe to produce this ad.
THE BIG KING (2015)
While no competitor is safe from Burger King’s trolling, the brand reserves a special place in its advertising strategy to mock McDonald’s. In this ad for Burger King Brazil, the fast food retailer sought out McDonald’s superfans across the globe and asked them to trade in their Big Mac tattoos for one of the brand’s latest Big King burger.
Flying the participants to Brazil where they had the opportunity to be tattooed by celebrity tattoo artist Ami James, all participants except one decided to change up their tattoo.
The team again collaborated with the award-winning Brazilian agency David SP on this ad.
Continuing in this vein of McDonald’s intimidation, we cannot miss out Burger King’s timely and unexpected use of a 2017 hit horror film to aggravate its rival further.
An adaption of Stephen King’s IT was the most hotly anticipated horror movie of 2017, featuring a demonic clown. At the premiere of the movie in Hamburg, Germany, the burger retailer flashed two spotlights on the screen prior to the credits rolling, the first stating: ‘The moral is: never trust a clown’ and the second flashing up the Burger King logo. The brand’s joke was not only well-timed humor after the intensity of the horror but served as an indirect send-up of the burger chain’s biggest rival.
Burger King again worked with Germany’s Grabarz & Partner on this activation.
‘Very Scary’ (2017)
Bolstered by the success of its previous IT ad and informed by statistics suggesting a high number of people dressing as clowns for Halloween, Burger King took the campaign one step further. Promising free Whoppers to the first 500 clowns to show up to its London flagship restaurant on Halloween night, the burger chain saw a swarm of clowns descend on Leicester Square store to receive their prize. The offer was circulated online with a short promo movie called ‘Very Scary’, encouraging consumers to ‘come as a clown, eat like a king’ on Halloween night.
This is not the first time Burger King has leveraged Halloween to take down its closest burger rival. In 2016, Burger King employees at a restaurant in New York dressed up their restaurant as a campy Halloween ghost, and pretended to be a McDonald’s. The white sheet read: “Booooo. Just kidding, we still flame grill our burgers”. McDonald’s uninspired response paled in comparison.
‘The McWhopper’ (2015)
In an unexpected turn of events, Burger King engaged McDonald’s in another of its advertising campaigns; but this time, the brand was not mocking its rival. Instead in 2015 the burger giant vowed to stage a ceasefire in the restaurants’ burger wars in a move to promote International World Peace day. As an olive branch, Burger King proposed the McWhopper, an amalgamation of the brands’ most popular burgers to be sold on that day with all proceeds going to non-profit charity Peace One Day.
Despite Burger King’s heartfelt open letter in both The New York Times and The Chicago tribune, as well as a compelling short ad featuring the founder of Peace One Day, Jeremy Gilley, McDonald’s snubbed the proposal. This move earned McDonald’s a lot of criticism, but Burger King a huge surge in social media interaction and impressions.
This PR stunt was the brainchild of Y&R New Zealand and the agency won a number of awards for its effort, including the Grandy at the 52nd International Andy Awards.
Opinions x Prejudice (2018)
In the wake of far-right politics’ triumph at the Brazilian elections in October 2018, Burger King – never one to shy away from confrontation – felt compelled to comment on the zeitgeist. Weighing in on the debate, the fast-food giant released an ad which explained clearly the difference between opinion and prejudice, highlighting social media posts which expressed prejudice under the guise of opinion.
The ad opens with a number of tweets that openly state their dislike of the Burger King brand, revealing their equitable stance on hearing out every opinion whether it is positive or not. It then juxtaposes these opinions with hate speech tweets, which claim to be merely an opinion. The significance of the ad is underpinned with its black-and-white color scheme and final, irrefutable caption stating: ‘Opinions are always welcome. Prejudice is not.’
Positioning itself as a champion of diversity, the brand partakes in social conversation and tackles the issues pervading both Brazilian, and global society at the time. This ad was launched in November 2018 by Burger King Brazil and was created in partnership with David SP.
‘Burger Queen’ (2018)
Burger King also explored the realm of cause marketing earlier in 2018, with its promotion of International Women’s Day in China. As with its Brazilian campaign, Burger King here touches on a pressing societal issue. In China there still exists huge gender disparity and many women feel left behind. Burger King’s decision to conduct its campaign here draws attention to the persisting issues, while promoting the international day of celebration for women.
Joining the leagues of other brands in a rush to comment on the day, Burger King begins its ad by asking Chinese women if they think they can be a queen. The answers of participants indicated typical female self-criticisms, ranging from feeling too fat, to feeling too old, to feeling too unattractive. After documenting these responses, Burger King asked the women to come to Burger King on 8 March where the Burger Queen would be revealed. Participants were presented with burger boxes that had mirrors on the underside of the lid, revealing their own reflection as the Burger Queen. Interviews with the women following this indicated that the boxes made them all feel valued, included and happy.
Like its Brazilian campaign, Burger King has touched on an area of society which is a predominant issue. The video interviews themselves garnered over 60m views across China- thus helping to promote equality and awareness of this global day.
This ad was made by Y&R Shanghai.
‘Whopper Neutrality’ (2018)
Burger King takes on the role of teacher in this ad, where the brand decides to educate the public on the impending death of internet neutrality. A concept that to many may appear daunting, the fast-food giant launched this simplistic PSA to inform the public of the consequences via… Whoppers.
The ad features unknowing customers ordering their burgers only to find out that in order to receive their burger faster, they will have to pay more. These infuriating time delays and frustrating dialogues eventually descend into arguments between the staff and customers. This candid ad goes a long way in educating the public about what is being compromised with the death of net neutrality and calls for them to be suitably outraged.
The brand cleverly informs the public while positioning itself as the attractive social justice warrior with its closing statement: “The internet should be like the Whopper: the same for everyone.”
This ad was developed with longtime agency partner David.