Wednesday, December 12, 2007

BK’s “Whopper Freakout” Commercial Exposes Meat Addiction Epidemic

What if there was no more Whopper, and would you want to live in such a world? This is the implicit premise of Burger King’s latest ad blitz “Whopper Freakout,” built around an “experiment” in which marketing researchers convinced customers the Whopper was discontinued and videotaped their reactions, both secretly with hidden cameras and posing as television news reporters.

In the first of what promises to be a series of excruciatingly insufferable commercials, Burger King starts out by setting an air of deadly seriousness with grave voiceovers and ominous electronic drone-music. A cashier then tells a customer that “We no longer carry the Whopper,” after which several people are shown apoplectically contorting their faces and making outraged demands to see the manager. Finally, a guy with a goatee coolly declares (with misogynistic and/or homophobic pride), “If Burger King doesn’t have the Whopper, they might as well change their name to Burger Queen,” and it ends with a frighteningly-irate man barking “Get me a Whopper!” as a threatening command.

While this slice of reality-TV propaganda is currently unavailable for viewing on the Internet, Burger King did post a 7-minute-plus video documenting their “experiment” at which presents the deception as though it were actually a legitimate scientific study. At the end, the melodramatic narration states Burger King has proven “that the Whopper is, as we thought, America’s favorite.” But you may wonder, does showing Burger King junkies freak out when denied their favorite fix of flame-broiled flesh really prove that the Whopper is America’s favorite?

Answer: Of course not.

First, the people in the commercial deliberately came to Burger King specifically to order a Whopper. This biased sample group does not represent America – especially the 4.7 million adult vegetarians in the U.S. and tens of millions of carnivorous Americans who do not eat Whoppers for health, environmental, religious, or aesthetic reasons.

Second, McDonald's and KFC's customers would "freak out" too if they couldn't get a Big Mac or the Colonel’s fried chicken. Any competing fast food chain could have made the claim to “America’s favorite” junk food or whatever if only they’d thought of this cheesy marketing gimmick first. Such a corroborating “study” conducted by a rival company would put Burger King’s claims in proper context by making it clear that meat junkies have their preferred poisons, and will freak out (and make complete asses of themselves) when they can’t feed their particular bloodthirsty habit.

Furthermore, by presenting the Freakout as something supposedly momentous, Burger King trivializes the lives and deaths of millions of cows who are murdered every year to make Whoppers. Cattle are branded, castrated and dehorned without anesthetic, and sometimes remain conscious as their hooves are chopped off and they are skinned. But in profit-driven mass-media advertising, these atrocities are framed as insignificant when the addictive appetites of paying customers are at stake.

I say, if Burger King wants to see a real Whopper Freakout, their future TV ads should include footage from inside their supplier’s slaughterhouses so Americans can actually see who the Whopper is really made of. If you think Burger King should do real Whopper Freakout commercials, call or write the company to let them know (but, if you can, try to be more polite than me: remember that the point is to make a statement, not hassle an individual employee who’s just trying to make a living).

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