Thursday, December 11

Gambling On Viral: "Whopper Virgins"

Although the Motrin viral marketing campaign is slowly fading from memory, viral advertising is not. There are plenty of companies willing to play the sometimes high stakes game of pushing marketing as opposed to products with the hope it might go viral.

According to Ad Age, Burger King's "Whopper Virgins" video is slowly going viral, but still slower than the fast food chain had hoped (which might explain the recent public relations support). The "Whopper Virgins" concept was to take the Whopper on a world tour, documentary style, where people who have never seen a hamburger could taste a Big Mac and Whopper.

"Whopper Virgins" is the second viral video that Burger King has attempted. The first, "Whopper Freakout", captured reactions from customers visiting a Burger King without Whoppers. It had limited success. The new video is better conceived, but it comes at a different price. Some people are annoyed by it.

Pushed by Burger King super fans — loyalist customers — "Whopper Virgins" is being seeded on various online video sites. The agency also claims teaser videos prompted a successful start, but based on YouTube counts and comments, it doesn't seem likely. While one teaser had 49,000 views, another only had 300. Some random comments left on the former:

"Lame, arrogant commercial - their website is even worse. It's an embarrassment."

"This video is to exploit indigenous people."

"I don't look at this commercial as offensive at all. I'm glad and proud to see that Hmong people are, probably for the very first time, being featured on mainstream TV."

Cathy Erway, writing for The Huffington Post, summed: "But most of all, you get a classic story of American corporate colonialism, sickly masked in that all-too-proud illusion of goodwill." Caitlin Fitzsimmons, writing for the Guardian, wrote: "It's either a fun and original ad or yet another example of the crass exploitation of the world's indigenous people." And Michael Lebowitz said: "I'm not always the biggest fan of Crispin Porter & Bogusky's work, but what they've been doing for Burger King is impressive."

Good, bad, indifferent?

PRWeek suggests that all buzz is perfectly all right given that using controversial ads can help boost a brand. And in many cases, that is the only intent of viral marketing: create some controversy, get some buzz, and hope that translates into "something" later on. If it doesn't work out, you can always say you're sorry.

So what kind of advertising is likely to go viral? As B.L. Ochman, Ad Age, recently offered up (paraphrased):

• Advertising that is funny, shocking, intriguing, or surprising.
• Ideas that customers can relate to and care about.
• A clear-cut message so people are able to pass it on.
• An easy way to pass it on such as link, embedding code, "share this" button, etc.
• A concept that builds relationships with customers by getting them to interact with others.

The caveat is that viral advertising isn't viral until it's passed on by the public. And, of course, not everyone agrees with on what measurable outcomes make for a viral success.

At the end of the day, someone has to ask if "Whopper Virgins" made people want to eat a Whopper (because it certainly didn't convince anyone that the taste test was authentic). Or, someone might even ask who really won — Burger King or Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the agency that produced it? Hmmm...

Is the new objective of marketing to market the marketing by encouraging super fans to push the marketing creative simply with the hope it goes viral based on, er, online views and perhaps start a controversial conversation? Some people seem to think so.


Rich on 12/11/08, 12:24 PM said...

Famous last words:

Russ Klein, Burger King president of global marketing, strategy and innovation, says the company took great care to be in tune with "cultural sensitivities" and to treat those involved with "reverence and respect."

"We didn't just show up with a camera," he says. "We went through a lot of prep work."

As for negative comments, he says, "We also know we can't be pleasing 100% of the people 100% of the time." — USA Today

Barry on 12/12/08, 5:47 AM said...

"Two all beef patties,
special sauce,
lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions
on a sesame seed bun"

Back in the 70's, this little gem of viral marketing helped to put Mcdonalds way out in front of Burger King where it remains today. From the golden arches to the egg mcmuffin Mcdonalds has fed and maintained a marketing juggernaut rivaled, in my opinion, only by Coca Cola.

These two companies seem to have the midas touch of self promotion. I did not even like Big Mac's but I learned and recited the above rhyme to earn a free one and I still remember it 20 years later. Now that is a whopper of an ad campaign. :-)

Anonymous said...

Barry, that's exactly the point of the ad.

People who think this is an attempt to "exploit" indigenous peoples are missing the point.

Find people who have NOT been exposed to the marketing hype, and who don't know any jingles by heart.

Give them a taste test. And record who wins.

Kudos to BK for actually doing it, and not just simulating it with costumed actors portraying indigenous peoples in a studio.

Rich on 12/12/08, 1:38 PM said...


I really liked the 70s grassroots campaign too. I remember the local MDs giving away an extra Big Mac if you could sing it in less than :20. (Of course, you always won.)


I'm not so convinced its exploitive. Mostly, it's boring. But the blind taste test is silly, given that they weren't carrying MD ovens on their journey.


What's even more telling is that this video didn't go viral until Burger King found a few people who called it controversial ... and then they responded to that dramatically. In other words, the backlash is invented and the media bought it. So it's not the advertisement that is viral ... it seems to be the faux controversy that is driving the interest.

I'm not so sure how I feel about that.

All my best,


Blog Archive

by Richard R Becker Copyright and Trademark, Copywrite, Ink. © 2021; Theme designed by Bie Blogger Template