Burger King SpongeBob Ad Too Sexual?

Burger King ad spot/SpongeBob SquarepantsSpongeBob SquarePants the focus of a sexually oriented controversy? Yup.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has launched a letter-writing campaign demanding that Nickelodeon and Burger King immediately pull a new, "highly sexualized" television ad for BK's 99-cent SpongeBob Kids Meal.

The objections were lodged after the ad ran during the NCAA men's basketball championship and other programming on Monday night.

The ad features BK's King singing a remix of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1990s hit song "Baby Got Back," with the new lyrics: "I like square butts and I cannot lie." The content CCFC views as offensive includes The King singing in front of women who are shaking their rear ends in front of the camera, intercut with SpongeBob dancing along on a TV screen; the King measuring a woman's behind after she has stuffed a telephone book under her clothes to achieve a square profile; and Sir Mix-A-Lot sitting on a couch with two female admirers and stating, ostensibly in the context of the BK meal deal: "Booty is booty."



"It's bad enough when companies use a beloved media character like SpongeBob to promote junk food to children, but it's utterly reprehensible when that character simultaneously promotes objectified, sexualized images of women," said CCFC director Susan Linn, a psychologist at the Judge Baker Children's Center. "That Burger King and Nickelodeon would sell kids' meals by associating a beloved male character like SpongeBob with lechery shows how little either company cares about the well-being of the children they target."

"No parent watching a major sporting event with their children should have to worry about being assaulted by sexualized imagery," stated Joe Kelly of, a CCFC steering committee member. "Parents who hope to instill values in their children like respect for women would do well to steer clear of Burger King and Bikini Bottom."

In a response provided to Marketing Daily on Wednesday, Burger King Corp. said that it welcomes the opportunity to "clear up any confusion" about the intentions of the advertising.

BK points out that the Kids Meal is a "value-based offer aimed at adults" and requires an adult BK Value Meal purchase. The commercial is intended to appeal to adults who take their kids to BK, and as with all BK adult advertising campaigns, it is being shown "only during shows targeting adult audiences," the company states. The commercial "is intended to show that even adults can have fun, laugh and be silly with entertainment genres -- such as rap and pop culture icons -- that have become part of everyday life."

The chain has developed a second, "completely different" SpongeBob advertising campaign for kids that is currently airing on kid-targeted programming, BK adds.

According to Nielsen/Arbitron joint venture Scarborough Sports Marketing, the average NCAA tournament viewer is male, age 18 or older, educated, married, has a higher-than-average household income, and is 34% more likely than the average adult to have visited a fast-food chain 10 or more times during a single week.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that no kids are watching.

16 comments about "Burger King SpongeBob Ad Too Sexual? ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 9, 2009 at 10:47 a.m.

    Wouldn't kill adults to stay away from fast food in the first place. TIme to send all of the promoters of these advertisers to police stations, rape units and victim crisis centers to do a stint there for at least a month. Maybe then they will learn where their "innocent" badgering becomes institutionalized in little minds and justifies criminal thoughts in adults. And no, you can't know which individuals are prone to such actions or not. And yes, the purpose of advertising IS to motivate to action. You can't have it both ways.

  2. Sheila Lemon from Moroch, April 9, 2009 at 11:11 a.m.

    Burger King Marketers forgot the power of the moms veto. This one will backfire! I think Dad's got a little irate at this one as well - nice move putting it in a high profile sports game. Hey I love McDonald's, and this is a nice reminder of why I do!

  3. Thomas Stein from stein rogan + partners, April 9, 2009 at 11:18 a.m.

    When an agency lives on the edge, it becomes difficult to judge when and what "too far" is. This is too far; the underlying cynicism is depressing as well as inapprorpiate.

  4. Paula Stahnke from Hoffman York, April 9, 2009 at 11:23 a.m.

    As a marketer, the spot seemed completely off target and left me scratching my head.

    As I mom, I think the nine year old sitting next to me on the couch said it best, "Mom, do you think this is appropriate?"

    Enough shock and awe. Where is the corporate responsibility?

  5. Patrick Grady from BIG Media Sales LLC, April 9, 2009 at 11:28 a.m.

    Going to far...YES. Stop serving us crap in advertising and start making food healthier for all Americans. This went way to far and as a father of three I am insulted and plan to never again set foot in a BK.

    Those creative people should be FIRED. While I am at it, try telling people how many calories are in those burgers and fries and see if people would consumer a whole days worth of calories in one sitting. YIKES.

    Who let Sponge Bob be used like that? They are idiots TOO.

  6. Suzanne Sell from Independent, April 9, 2009 at 2:12 p.m.

    I honestly don't understand what message this ad is trying to send. It's not about the BK brand; it's not about the BK product. It makes no sense at all, and although I'm not a prude, as a woman, I found it offensive.

  7. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems), April 9, 2009 at 5:27 p.m.

    The only comment here that mattered was the one from the 9 year old who asked, "do you think this is appropriate?" Kids are not dumb.

  8. Brian Jackson from PREMIER MARKETING SERVICES, INC, April 9, 2009 at 6:34 p.m.

    Why is it that I so often find myself saying "Wazzup with CP&B?" And just what is the call to action in this spot? If this is what we consider effective marketing to young black males, we have some ethnic diversity classes to attend, now don't we? And spare me the spin -- it's like listening to tobacco advertisers defend Joe Camel. Personally, everyone I know is so creeped out by the "King" character we all started avoiding BK like the plague a long time ago. This ad just makes it easier to drive on to Wendy's.

  9. Debra Johnson from D Johnson & Company, April 13, 2009 at 12:23 p.m.

    Burger King Rest. needs to stick to burgers and not young girls booties. Is this a legal way for cyber sex targeting young ladies? That's the message I got. Now I know why I don't go to Burger King, bad food - bad ads.

    What's up with the Burger King...he is really weird. Burger King should look at developing better food and a new mascot before creating another ad.

  10. Micah Touchet from NewBirth Creative Design Agency, April 13, 2009 at 5:18 p.m.

    Not even remotely a good ad... btw, is it just me, or does the Burger King seem somehow much of a muchness to Godaddy's Bob Parsons?

  11. cheryl crow, April 15, 2009 at 9:03 p.m.

    there is nothing wrong with this commercial i thinkl it is quite funny and i am a woman i dont find it offensive at all. can anyone ever find the point of every commercial there is nothing wrong with it. this is just anothere thing in this world for people to complain about. there are way worse things to worry about rather than a funny commercial

  12. cheryl crow, April 15, 2009 at 9:08 p.m.

    and i dont beleive anyone is gonna be raped because of this comercial that is just crazy. people are making a way bigger deal out of this that is necesary. my god you people are crazy. before i saw the commercial i heard that someoine had ia probloem with it but they didnt get to here what the problem is. honestly when i saw the commercial i could not understand what the problem was. that is why i got online to see what it was

  13. sean ryan, April 16, 2009 at 1:41 a.m.

    I don't see why this is such a problem. Children don't see butts as sex objects. They think they are funny. It's adults projecting their own sexual weirdness that makes this commercial a problem for some people. I think it's cute.

    Interestingly enough, there is actually a poll being conducted. You can go there and vote your opinion about this ad.


  14. Michael Jackson, April 16, 2009 at 5:50 p.m.

    @sean ryan, @cheryl crow

    You guys are so right! Kids love butts. Nothing sexual about them, at all. Why are all of these sick, perverted parents concerned about this? We need more of these ads!

  15. Lori Goode from Atlas, April 16, 2009 at 7:27 p.m.

    While I didn't find the ad offensive, when I first saw it I was confused as to the target audience. The Sir-Mix-a-Lot reference definitely targets my generation of viewers, and I couldn't ascertain anything about the strategy ormessaging. Even if it the deal is only applicable with adult purchase...well, I missed that whole message every time I've seen the commercial. Other than the fact that Spongebob is involved--I had no idea exactly what they were promoting.

    And isn't Spongebob slightly outdated? There was a time Spongebob merchandise was everywhere, but I feel like there are hotter icons that would have been worth promoting. Spongebob has been a common toy amongst fast food chains for years now, so it's nothing to make them stand apart. Moreover, Spongebob isn't old enough to be consistent with the Sir-Mix-a-Lot nostalgia.

    Overall, just seemed completely random, flailing, and hoping to lean on iconic celebrity, without any brilliance or wit.

  16. Ro Fer from ABC Company, April 20, 2009 at 3:20 p.m.

    I think that it is just a silly commercial to get people's attention...and look - it did just that. It sure got everyone talking. As for children...doesn't anyone on this board know any children?! Most kids think that rear ends are funny, and it brought back a song that many kids think is funny too...although the song has some inappropriate lyrics in its original version. The kids watching this aren't thinking about sexual images and they are certainly not going to attack some woman because they saw a commercial with women dancing with square butts. This certainly isn't offensive. There are far more offensive things on television and radio these days than Sir Mix A Lot singing about square butts.

Next story loading loading..