Because it is bitter, and because it is my burger
Burger King, in yet another in a series of increasingly bizarre, off-putting ad campaigns, has created an application for Facebook that will give you a coupon for a free Whopper if you delete ten people from your friends list. Called “the Whopper Sacrifice,” the point of it is to prove that “you like your friends, but you love the Whopper,” and there’s a running tab at the website of how many e-pals got cut in favor of free food (73,462 as of this writing). Further, the application posts the names of each person you dropped and the reason why to your Facebook account, because in providing free advertising for them Burger King also wants you to advertise the fact that you’re a huge jackass.
Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of Burger King. In fact, if I was going to make a list of my favorite fast food restaurants, regional chains such as Sonic, Jack in the Box and In-and-Out (none of which are in my immediate area, goddammit to hell) would be at the top of the list. Then would come Arby’s, followed by Wendy’s. Chick-Fil-A after that, then KFC would be maybe fifth or sixth, then perhaps Burger King. No, scratch that, it’d probably be Popeye’s, because I like their biscuits. Right, KFC, Popeye’s, then Burger King. Oh wait, shit, I forgot about Subway, Subway’s a fast food chain, right? Okay, KFC, Subway, then Popeye’s, then Burger King. Dammit, according to Wikipedia there’s also Quizno’s, Chipotle, Domino’s, Papa John’s and Panda Express, all of which I like better than Burger King. It’s not that I’ll refuse to eat Burger King, it’s just that I’d rather eat food from all the other greasy spoons I listed first. When I do go to Burger King, I almost never get a burger; in fact I’ve only eaten one Whopper in my entire life. BK burgers tend to be sloppy, gushing affairs, with mayonnaise applied to them at an amount that could only be described as “bukkake-like.” Also, I never understood the appeal of the whole “flame-broiled” thing, as BK’s idea of “flame-broiled” is “tasting like the grill.” Their chicken sandwiches are decent, I guess, if “decent” means “it doesn’t make my intestines explode.”
Further disclosure: I’m really new to the whole Facebook thing, as in I literally just joined a month ago. I have just over fifty friends added, and the majority of them are people I either know in real life or from another online forum (I also have a very small amount of celebrities who I will not embarrass myself by pretending we know each other). Granted, not all of these people are real “friends,” as in someone I’d feel comfortable calling up in the middle of the night and crying to after listening to The Cure’s Disintegration three times in a row, but they’re all genial folks who I didn’t add willy-nilly. While I certainly intend on adding more as I go along, I’m a little baffled at the people who have upwards of five hundred or more friends on their Facebook accounts; how do they get anything done after spending hours reading who joined the ‘I Love Mythbusters‘ group, who moved up to Level 7 in Mob Wars and who scored 85% in a quiz about The Goonies? Facebook is already a timekiller for me, I wouldn’t want it to get in the way of sleep or eating. Unless of course I’m eating Burger King, which in that case I could go either way.
I’ve been lurking around the interblags long enough to understand the sociopsychological aspects of “friending” someone online, or more importantly, “unfriending” them. For some people it’s a grievous offense to be “unfriended,” especially in an outlet like LiveJournal, where you share personal information and stories about your life with each other, as opposed to MySpace, where you share bad HTML and pictures of you and your friends flashing gang signs. We have our reasons and are entitled to unfriend people as we see fit, but there does not yet seem to be a general consensus as to the proper way to announce to someone that they’ve been e-dumped. The silent approach is cold and cowardly, yet making some long, self-serving post about how you just don’t have time to read everybody on your friends list anymore is attention whoring, besides, who wants to hear that they’re not worth someone’s time, even if it’s someone you really barely know? Nevertheless, you can bet that using an application to let your Facebook friends know that you sold them out for a free janky-ass cheeseburger is absolutely the wrong way to go about it.
Thus comes to the crux of the problem: why does Burger King want to encourage its customers to look like assholes? Ever since being taken over by ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky some years back, Burger King has had a series of promotions attached to it that are seemingly designed to offend or at least come off as very strange: the “I am Man” commercial that showed a bunch of burly, ex-frat boy types marching around declaring their refusal to eat “chick food,” the “Subservient Chicken” web game in which you can command a guy wearing a chicken suit (not to mention a leg iron and a garter belt) to do things “just the way you like it” (I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to ask it to do more than “dance”) and of course the mute, hydrocephalic Burger King himself, who has haunted many a fevered hallucination. Just in time for the holidays, they released a body spray for men called Flame, described as “the scent of seduction with the hint of flame-broiled meat,” and accompanied by an ad of the Burger King stretched out semi-nude on a fur rug. The spray, only available online and in New York-based cosmetic and novelty chain Ricky’s, sold out quickly, presumably as Christmas gifts meant to be given as jokes or to obnoxious brothers-in-law you secretly despise. Now of course there is the “Whopper Virgins” campaign, in which Burger King claims that as a sort of goodwill mission their representatives have been visiting villages in godforsaken parts of Romania and Thailand and presenting the villagers with burgers. There is an ulterior motive in the charitable act, however–they have the villagers participate in a taste test between Whoppers and Big Macs, the reasoning being that their unsullied palates, having never before known the pleasures of a greasy mess of cheese and meat, will offer an unbiased opinion as to which is the better burger. Being that all of them chose the Whopper, I’m inclined to believe that the whole thing is fake, but not surprisingly the campaign has run into a great deal of controversy. It seems folks don’t like when culturally insensitive Americans use “impoverished” foreign people (“impoverished” of course meaning “not aware of stuff that Americans like”) to sell a product, especially a product as generally unhealthy as a fast food cheeseburger. I mean, honestly, were any of these people worse off for never having eaten a Whopper before? Should Taco Bell do a flyover and strafe them with gorditas, just so they can finally experience the taste of them as well? Shit, as long as they’re not starving they’re lucky for never eating this crap. When they start getting fat and their arteries harden they can look to the skies and cry out “Thank you, Burger King, for enlightening us!”
In short, yes, it would appear that Burger King is tapping into a heretofore underserved market: the dicky schmuck market. Except that it’s not an underserved market, it may be my perception but it seems as though most ad campaigns feature insufferable people doing or saying things no one in real life would ever actually do or say, like the Alltel ads, which feature a gang of overaged nerds engaging in bitchy spats with a smug salesman or the woman who constantly lies to her friends about the source of her Glade plug-in air fresheners. Who does that? And why does Burger King spend so much money marketing to them?