Public Relations

McFlop: Why the Burger King/McDonald's peace day PR stunt was a dog's dinner

By Mark Borkowski |

August 26, 2015 | 4 min read

The sea turns to blood. The sun scorches the earth. The seven seals open. The Whopper and the Big Mac unite. Such is the vision of cataclysmic world destruction prompted by Burger King's cynical invitation to McDonald’s to join forces in aid of, erm, world peace day.

The McWhopper advertisement ran in the New York Times and was followed by the launch of a website featuring the dubious contents of each signature sandwich floating down screen like a slow-mo sequence in the Matrix. Perhaps this is because there is something of the dystopian simulation to Burger King’s whole approach to reality.

To follow the logic of the invitation, if McDonald’s reject the olive branch they are effectively bellicose meanies. Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s CEO, didn’t bite, and instead loaded his silos: “The business rivalry between the companies shouldn't be equated to the real pain and suffering of war," he said. The magnificent pithiness of the smackdown is perhaps the best press the greasy arches have had in years, a notion that only arouses the cynical suspicion that the whole thing is indeed a whopping great stitch up.

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A whopper of a PR fail?

The gut of fastfood PR has become bloated with all manner of idea porn this year. You remember McDonald’s desperate attempt to discover some vintage funk through reviving its Hamburglar character as a figure somewhere between hipster and Christian Grey? No...? Well you must have heard about Burger King’s attempt to persuade tattooed burger-obsessives to add the King’s trademark grill streaks to their inked bodies? Hmm, you really haven’t been paying attention….

Still, the McWhopper takes the crown. Where other recent stunts have at least capitalised on the real affection many have towards these chemical calorie buns the joining of the two burger giants spectacularly misses the point. You’re either a Mr/iss Big or a King/Queen – you can’t be both. As soon as you blur the boundaries the defining features of each iconic burger begin to disintegrate like sesame seed buns in contact with greasy hands. They’re really not so different, are they? They’re just…burgers.

In a world riven by ethnic, religious and political violence this may in fact be an inspiring thought ahead of world peace day. For rival brands, however, it’s a dog’s dinner.

Mark Borkowski is the founder of He tweets @MarkBorkowski

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