Posted by: joha5 | April 25, 2010

The Burger King’s Reign of Terror

Marketing is an art.  Anybody can put out information and publicize a product or an event and hope it sticks but it takes real genuine skill to get at the heart of a product and to turn advertising dollars into revenue.  I used to work in public relations and marketing and it is one of the industries that I am currently pursuing for work and I can tell you from personal experience that it requires a lot of creativity and a lot of ingenuity.  During my days working in marketing I saw and had some very sexy clients (travel companies, online poker, retail) and some very unsexy clients (RFID chips, supply chain management, window cleaning, and even a toilet brush company).  Consequently, I have developed an appreciation – albeit a mild one – for clever marketing.  The Burger King King and Scott Shoyer and the Dominos Pizza commercials do not belong in that category. 

I don’t know why it is that I have such a violent reaction to these two commercials but I become absolutely enraged when I see them.  These campaigns seem to do the complete opposite of what they set out to do.  They make me not want to watch the commercials, they make me not want to spend my money with them, and they make me want to switch the channel specifically to avoid their advertisements.  I haven’t done my research or found any hate groups to belong to online because I just don’t care enough but I simply can’t imagine that I am the only one who feels this way about them. 

The Dominos Pizza commercial features a man named Scott Shoyer in Cedar Park, Texas who apparently is one of the only ones in the country to not have tried Dominos new pizza recipe.  The executives at Dominos are so incensed by his ignorance that they decide to launch an all out campaign directly targeting poor Scott and his family.  They put up billboards, sandwich boards, placards, and even take out plane advertising all to persuade this one man to try their new pizza.  Eventually he relents and the people at Dominos are thrilled – they’ve ‘really been waiting for his call’ – so another creepy decision is made to take a camera crew to his house to film his reaction the pizza.  They hand him the pizza on his front porch and essentially force him to eat the food.  As expected, he says he likes it and Dominos can now cross another person off the list.  Just watch.   

I know that all of these people are actors and that the irony of me talking about their advertising campaign is only giving them more publicity but I just hate the idea of being badgered and cajoled into eating a stupid pizza.  The whole thing makes me feel really uncomfortable.  This poor man is essentially being stalked by a Big-Brother-type figure and he has been identified as some sort of infidel specifically because he hasn’t eaten their food before.  So Dominos then follow him around Cedar Park filming his reaction to the direct advertising.  And then, as if harassing this man, his wife, and his children wasn’t enough, when he finally calls and orders a pizza they bring a camera crew to his house.  With perhaps a dozen people or so standing on his front porch, this man is forced to eat the pizza in front of them and deliver a reaction that pleases them for fear that they won’t ever leave him alone.  His positive reaction is surprisingly underwhelming but this seems to satisfy the pizza guy who is the ringleader of this whole operation.  They ‘cross him off the list’ which sounds like some sort of euphemism the Third Reich might have used and they presumably move on to their next victim.  This is not smart advertising.  It is harassment and it is terrifying but it is not advertising. 

And if you thought Dominos was bad to Scott Shoyer than you must not have seen the Burger King King.  This is hands down one of the most frightening things that I have ever seen, and probably will ever see, on television.  There are seemingly endless commercials involving the King – he escapes from a mental institution and assaults innocent bystanders, he stands outside people’s windows all night with a sandwich until they wake up in the morning, he robs a man at burger-point at an ATM of his wallet, and he dispatches of a man’s spouse in order to sleep next to him so he can give him a sandwich in the morning.  Here are some of the commercials.

Whereas Dominos only harasses people, the King seems purely hellbent on chaos and destruction.  He robs people, he stalks them, and he presumably has murdered at least one person.  The King is so sinister that he could quite easily be a villain in the next Batman movie and nobody would bat an eyelid.  Can you imagine sitting peacefully in your house only to stand up to go to the bathroom and see a huge man not 3 feet away in a medieval king’s costume wearing a plastic mask with a static expression on it essentially forcing you to eat a disgusting piece of meat that is lukewarm at best?  How did he get in the house so quietly?  Why has he chosen me?  What are his motivations to make me eat this food?  Is it poisoned?  Did he kill the dog on the way in?  I mean, this campaign provides us with an infinite number of questions and almost no answers.  This campaign is a campaign of fear and nothing more.  In a way it is no different from McCarthyism and the hunt for communists or Maximilien Robespierre and the Reign of Terror (ironically, the King looks very similar to Robespierre…just saying).  It is apparent that the King has absolutely no moral compass, is totally jaded by his mission to make people fat (probably due to his Napoleon Complex), and commits crimes that are reprehensible.  Whoever thought up this character is an absolute idiot and whoever is making the decision to keep him around is an imbecile.  I hate them and I hate the Burger King King.  

I suppose these commercials really do demonstrate a lot about our culture and what we value.  I am assuming that these campaigns are only increasing revenue for both Dominos and Burger King and that is probably the worst part.  To me, these commercials seem to make light of the fact that companies actually bully us to buy their products.  Scott Shoyer and the King are just caricatures and obviously make light of this kind of corporate bullying.  Perhaps if they were more entertaining or less obvious in their motivations I would find some value in these commercials.  Unfortunately, all they do is terrify me and make me think twice about whether I want to spend my money with them.  After all, the last thing I would ever want to see is my name on a Billboard telling me to eat pizza or a sinister man in a costume and a mask creep up behind me in my most peaceful and private moments.

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Responses

  1. I think I know what I’m dressing up as for Halloween!

  2. I so wish I hadn’t viewed your video clips. I’m now having dreams. But in my dreams I don’t meekly accept gloop from the king, because I know it contains a chemical cosh and soon I will find myself rendered unconscious and all sorts of unnatural acts will be performed upon my person.
    No, in my dream I do what normal people would do in this situation. I scream and scream and scream. I strike out wildly with pieces of furniture. I lock myself in the bathroom. I leap through the window and run to the police station and demand that this creepy pervert is locked up for at least a ten stretch sharing a cell with the tobacco baron and becoming his sex toy. Anyway, that’s what I do.
    Take care of yourself,
    Bill

    • Hahaha! Hi Bill! I think if I was to write a story about that damn Burger King, it would follow a very similar storyline! I just don’t know who at Burger King honestly thinks that this campaign is a good idea. I think it is absolutely terrifying and I am glad that you agree! Then again, Ronald McDonald isn’t the most sane person either! Anyway, thanks so much for reading and responding. I really appreciate it! Feel free to stop by anytime and we can share some of our musings together again!

  3. Hi Jon, I know that you’re only dreaming of the day when you’re the chief copywriter in a top London agency that handles the Burger King account. You’re in a meeting with the senior marketing director of BK (initials suffice) when a shiny faced young art director puts up his hand (and there’s nothing you can do to stop him) and he says, “I’ve got a great idea! We dress a guy as a real king and he stalks people and forces them to eat gloop and they learn to love gloop and they all dance along the street singing the BK gloop song!” And the BK client says, “I love it!”
    That’s the glamourous world of advertising.
    Have fun
    Bill

    • I worked in PR and Marketing for a couple of years so I had a tiny taste of it but not nearly as much as what you described. It was a small agency located in Waterloo in London (25 people worldwide and 10 people locally) and I worked on some travel accounts, some technology accounts, supply chain management (blech!), a window cleaning company, and even a toilet brush company (the Dipsan-3000!). Not a very sexy job. Ironically, one of my closest friend’s from college works in the Burger King Marketing Department and he actually LIKES the Burger King. But then again, I guess he gets paid to like him whereas the rest of us can’t wait until he disappears.


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