Monday, December 8, 2008

Is the Whopper Virgins Taste Test In Bad Taste?

Last night BK revealed its Whopper Virgins campaign. If you didn't already know, teasers have been circulating for a couple weeks now with a reveal of their documentary type video of the taste test last night.

The reviews have been mixed and I sit a bit mixed myself. The mini-documentary was nothing unexpected. It seems like a pretty straight and serious little documentary. The campaign has come under fire mostly due to the idea of feeding unhealthy, trans-fat laden food to healthier rural cultures and presenting it as a wonderful thing. My personal problem with it is how heroic Burger King seems to paint themselves. Really? I mean I love to travel, learn about other cultures and teach them about mine in return, but the Whopper is not something I epitomize as American. The hamburger, maybe, but that hamburger wouldn't be fast food. Granted, I realize it's a commercial for Burger King, but still, really?

The other major problem with this ad is the question of whether they're making fun of these cultures. At first, I thought documentary seemed sincere and had issues with it then, but after a debate with my creative director, I'm not so sure. His take was that the documentary is really poking fun at these cultures and their naivety of the hamburger, Christopher Guest style. I'm not entirely convinced, but given it's by CP+B, who knows? If it is really intended to be a mockumentary, then I really have a problem with its condescending tone, but I'm just not sure if it's quite absurd enough to qualify.

AdWeek's Barbara Lippert has an interesting review too.

What do you think? Is it intended to be serious or absurd? Is it condescending or funny? Is infiltrating foreign cultures with Whoppers something to be ashamed of or proud of?


Anonymous said...

OK, maybe they weren't trying to make a mockumentary. But what's never clarified is the rationale for creating this thing in the first place. Is it to share the wonders of flame-broiled meat? Is it to prove once and for all that the world, the entire world, prefers a Whopper over a Big Mac, take that McDonalds? Any rationale for making this thing is so absurd it becomes Christopher-Guestian even if that wasn't their intent. Serious documentaries have something to say. Lacking a discernible editorial purpose, it becomes a parody of documentaries that are trying to make a point.

Christine said...

I think they're trying to say people unbiased by advertising prefer the Whopper. They have to preconceptions prior to tasting it. Whether that's valid purpose or not, I don't know.

Patrick said...

It's a taste test but who cares about the winner in this contest. The Whopper Virgins idea is the most authentic piece of advertising I've seen in awhile and by far the most interesting idea ever to come out of burger culture.

There's been a lot of negative comments about this campaign ranging from "Those poor people. I bet their stomachs exploded soon after eating those things and woke up the next day craving hamburgers. Thumbs down for CP+B." to "Why don’t they bring along a little smallpox while they’re at it…"

This campaign isn't about taking advantage of third world cultures or some bizarre global expansion strategy. It's not even about taste! It's about 1 thing: Making Burger King relevant again by getting people talking about it. In this they have succeeded based on all of the noise in the media about it.

But for me, the real genius of this is how it introduces the idea of discovery and understanding through authentic cultural exchange. Not only did BK take our culture to other parts of the world, they are allowing us peak into cultures many of us aren't familiar with even though it's just a commercial. American society is so preoccupied with itself that we're oblivious to just about every other culture on the planet. We often believe that everyone is just like us. And why not? We're the greatest aren't we?

For better or worse this piece forces us to look at ourselves and take stock in what kind of culture we've created (or forced onto other parts of the world). It forces us to think about how other people may view our culture and just how foreign we can appear in a different context. These individuals should look curious and confused just like we would be if we were eating seal meat for the first time. I don't think it's meant to exploit them, rather to hold up a different mirror to our culture. But the underlying point is we need to be aware and open others so that we can have a better understanding of our neighbors whether they live next door or live on another continent. It's everything Obama's been saying!

Part of this "exchange idea" comes through during the Thailand scene when they show the Americans dining on the other cultures food. They even give you a nice close up of the dish that would typically be reserved for the "product as hero" sequence of a typical commercial. Everybody is sharing and it's a two way street. I especially like the last interview and the gentleman revealing he "likes seal meat better." It's a great ending and more importantly it's real.

So thumbs up to Crispin Porter + Bogusky for letting us have it our way and showing us that other folks may like something different.