“Google, how can a clever idea go wrong?”
The creatives at Burger King agency David might as well have asked that question rather than rely on their native wits for a :15 that, if nothing else, drew a little of the attention away from United’s and Pepsi’s recent gaffes yesterday.
“Burger King is unveiling a horrible, genius, infuriating, hilarious, and maybe very poorly thought-out ad today that’s designed to intentionally set off Google Homes and Android phones,” Jacob Kastrenakes posted to The Verge at noon EDT yesterday. “The 15-second ad features someone in a Burger King uniform leaning into the camera before saying, ‘OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?’”
It was “supposed to begin running in prime-time slots across the U.S. today on networks including History, Spike, Comedy Central, MTV, E!, and Bravo, and it will air during Adult Swim, The Tonight Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Kastrenakes reported.
It never got there, as Sapna Maheshwari explains for the New York Times: “Within hours of the ad’s release — and humorous edits to the Whopper Wikipedia page by mischievous users — tests from The Verge and BuzzFeed showed that the commercial had stopped activating the device.
“Burger King, which did not work with Google on the ad, said Google appeared to make changes by Wednesday afternoon that stopped the commercial from waking the devices, in what amounted to an unusual form of corporate warfare in the living room.”
As for those “mischievous users,” Zlata Rodionova fills in some naughty details for The Independent.
“The marketing stunt backfired after somebody altered the first line of the Wikipedia entry to say that the burger contains ‘cyanide’ and is ‘cancer-causing.’ The entry also reportedly described the Whopper as ‘the worst hamburger product’ sold by Burger King,” Rodionova reports.
Burger King President José Cil toldBuzzFeed News’ Venessa Wong that although Google Home is less popular than Amazon's Echo, “the ad ‘could trigger’ other Android devices like smartphones to search for ‘Whopper.’”
“Spamming people with search results for flame-broiled burgers is not what Google had in mind with when it launched the device,” Wong writes.
“We saw it as a technology to essentially punch through that fourth wall,” Cil told her, calling it “a cool way to connect directly with our guests.”
That’s not the way most commentators saw it.
“Voice-activated assistants like Siri and Alexa offer the ultimate in convenience since you can access a wealth of info and powerful usability features with nothing but a few spoken words. Unfortunately, that ease of use also makes them particularly vulnerable to trolling, and while you might expect such shenanigans from a bored friend, you probably won’t be prepared for a Burger King commercial to attempt a hijack of your know-it-all speaker,” is Mike Wehner’s lede for BGR.
Creativity’s Ann-Christine Diaz reminds us that Burger King was Cannes Lions’ 2017 Marketer of the Year and “has experienced a creative renaissance of late with ideas ranging from the lo-fi (like a stunt in which one of its restaurants ‘dressed up’ as a McDonald's for Halloween) to the hi-tech (as one recent activation that allows gamers to order real BK from inside a Playstation video game).”
Google likely blocked the ad by “adding a recording of the audio file in question to an internal blacklist — something the company maintains to make sure that its own TV ads don’t trigger its devices, among other reasons,” reports Janko Roettgers for Variety.
If you are of the George M. Cohan as-long-as-you-spell-my-name-right school of publicity, all this is perfectly fine and dandy.
“The total time the ad triggered the Assistant was about three hours,” Ron Amadeo wrote for Ars Technica, “… but we're sure the company already got its money's worth thanks to tech articles like this one.”
If you really want to start the day on a downer, just start reading the viewer’s comments under the execution on YouTube. It was the No. 1 trending video early this morning with more 725,000 views but had more dislikes than likes, and nearly 3,000 people weighing in on everything from politics to Pepsi and United to expletive-laced critiques of BK’s :15 production of “Invasion of the Phone Snatchers.”
There’s lots of pent-up anger out there, in the event you hadn't taken notice when you're out and about.