Beating their Meat

As if further proof were needed that consumers have a deep and abiding attachment to processed meat, patrons at a Las Vegas Burger King were tricked into providing it. The Web video “Whopper Freakout” shows unsuspecting customers ordering Whoppers, only to be told that the signature burger is no longer on the menu. A rocker dude says he’s “livid.” A woman demands to see the manager. One surprised dad puts his toddler down and says, “That’s a huge mistake.”

The point of this Whopper deprivation?

“It was a social experiment done to prove that people really do love this hamburger,” says Rob Reilly, creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the agency behind the campaign, which marks 50 years of the Whopper. The video appears at and has been posted on YouTube and elsewhere.

It’s the creation of Henry-Alex Rubin, best known for the documentary Murderball and repped by production company Smuggler for ad work. Rubin captured his subjects via a network of hidden cameras and a fake news crew. “I was not interested in making fun of people at all,” Rubin assures. The freakouts are funny, of course, but some customers reminisce about the burger’s place in their childhoods.  

Jack Trout, president of marketing consultancy Trout & Partners, which didn’t work on the campaign, isn’t generally a fan of the quirky advertising Crispin creates for Burger King. But he praised “Freakout” for putting the chain’s mainstay product top-of-mind.

“They’re getting back to home base with this,” Trout says. “They’re saying, ‘Hey, we've got people here who live for the Whopper. Maybe you should try it.’ ”

Or maybe, just maybe, you should eat a salad once in a while.

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