Friday, April 17, 2009

Is Burger King Serious??

I've heard it said that "any publicity is good publicity." If that's the case, then Burger King is going to owe CPYU for advertising time. Oh well. I couldn't let this one slip past without comment. If you were watching the NCAA Basketball finals last week chances are you saw the new Burger King commercial for their 99 cent Sponge Bob Squarepants kids' meal. . . . the KIDS' meal. The ad brings together three pop culture icons in an interesting and somewhat confusing mix. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in that marketing meeting. There's the BK King. . . not surprising. Then there's Sponge Bob Squarepants, that popular Nickelodeon animated character who has a large and loyal young following. . . okay, a good marketing choice for a licensing agreement. Then the mix gets weird. . . Sir-Mix-A-Lot provides the soundtrack and commentary with a remake of his old rap hit "Baby Got Back," a song that touts the virtue of the female posterior. If you haven't yet seen the 30-second spot, it's worth watching.



So now I'm left scratching my head and wondering on several levels, is Burger King Serious?? Absolutely "yes" on the marketing level. I'm sure lots of time, research, money, and thought went into designing and producing the spot. As with all ads, there's nothing haphazard there.

Regarding their claims that the ad is targeting adults. . . come on BK. We're not stupid. I know very few adults who drool over the chance to eat a 99 cent kids' meal complete with a Sponge Bob toy. In fact, I don't know any. And if I did, I'd recommend a good counselor. Seriously, the grown-up fast food lovers I know who frequent BK jump right to any item that includes the words "DOUBLE" and "WHOPPER." The combination of "Kids' Meal" and "Sponge Bob" is so transparent. Didn't we once hear this line of reasoning from the folks who came up with Joe Camel?

Finally, there's the combination of kids' fast food, a cartoon character, and a rap singer's sexually-charged and explicit song that objectifies and degrades women. When critics sound the alarm - and that's happening - BK will no doubt respond with some explanation that denies any negative influence from the inclusion of the latter member of the commercial's trio of pop icons. In fact, BK will answer critics who ask "are you serious?" with the same exact question. Why is that? Quite simply, the folks who made this ad have been shaped in ways that have left them with a worldview that very seriously can't see any grounds for protest, concern, or complaint. They are simply being true to their worldview. Remember when the Athenians were left scratching their heads over what Paul was telling them about the resurrection (Acts 17)? They weren't being jerks. They weren't trying to make Paul mad. Instead, they looked at each other in a bewildered way because their worldview had no categories for what he was saying. To them, Paul was an incomprehensible babbler. That's most likely where we're at as a culture right now. And the back-and-forth over the BK ad that's sure to intensify is actually a collision of worldviews.

Which brings us to the teachable moment. What are you going to do with the BK ad? If you're a parent, will you talk about it with your kids? If you're a youth worker, will you address it in your ministry? Any suggestions?

As for me, I resolve to not eat at Burger King. Big deal, I haven't eaten there for a couple of years anyway. My wife's BK commentary and concern for our family's health have resulted in my withdrawal of citizenship from that part of our fast food nation. That's okay. As long as Chic-Fil-A's around, that'll keep me happy.

17 comments:

SoulPastor said...

wow

Marcus Goodyear said...

I'm pretty open about this stuff, but that's just not good taste. I suppose if the ads are only playing on times when kids won't see them.

So did it run late in the NCAA game after kids were supposed to be in bed?

I suppose they could be targeting parents. Still. Weird.

AMPED Student Ministries said...

I think I had the same reaction but it was more of a "You've gotta be kidding me?"

Ginny O. said...

Walt, you better take a lesson from Oprah... you're impacting the market :)

"Burger King (BKC) stock values have taken quite a hit over the last day and half, down about a $4 share."

http://seekingalpha.com/article/131342-burger-king-traffic-falloff-what-about-the-international-marketing-focus

Sagstetter said...

And, if you want to know how serious BK is about listening to your concerns/reactions ... go to their website ... Wait, the "contact us" only includes a long distance # (not an 800#) and NO internet contact information.

Josh Mann said...

Maybe it takes being a boomer to understand the scandal associated with this latest Burger King ad. Viewing this from the lens of a youth pastor and PhD student studying leadership and culture, I'm sad to say I didn't find this near as offensive as you did.

This, to me, feels like a classic, "the world's out to get our kids," line that is based on fear and is overreacting.

Of course it's an ad targeting parents. They hope that parents will think this is a cheap way to feed my kids (BK is not making any $ on a 99cent kids meal) in hopes that the parents will buy. The parents appreciate the song, the kids recognize spongebob, we all get a laugh at the parody, it's completely asexual.

Am I off-base? If I am, so are most of my Christ-following peers who in no way thought this ad was degrading or offensive.

I hope this doesn't come off mean-spirited, that was not my intent. But I would love to dialogue about the different ways of interpreting said commercial.

Sara Damude said...

The Campagin for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has an easy way for you to let BK know how you feel. Click the link to send BK a message: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/621/t/6725/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27008
Great post, Walt!

Matt said...

@Josh - I don't know if I would say the song is completely asexual, as it featured young ladies dancing with square butts, quite prominently throughout the video. Nonetheless, as a young 27 yr old youth pastor - my first reaction to seeing this commercial was "huh?" While I don't think this is an attack on my faith or my children, you have to admit the commercial was pretty odd.

Anonymous said...

It is following the trend of all the BK ads for the past year (or more). I don't think I've seen a BK add that isn't sexual in some form or fashion. Unfortunately, my son has a friend that works for that ad agency in Boulder and they don't see anything wrong with their ideas and his friend tends to become pretty defensive when she hears negative comments. Our country's PC line has changed from one extreme (think 50's) to the other and this can be seen in any sitcom/movie, etc. that hits the market/waves.

TomJeanMeganJustin said...

yep, saw it. completely bad taste. I mean, we are talking about food, right?? what does that have to do with your back side?? I agree with the sexual inappropriateness, but also it is just plain gross. I wouldn't eat there. But I find SBSP offensive or "fresh" as I tell my children. we don't watch him anyway.

Anonymous said...

As a young female, I find this extremely offensive. As a Christian, I find it even more offensive. As a future mother, I would not want my children to be exposed to this sort of "it's ok to be sexually explicit" sort of dancing and ridiculousness.

Even from a secular standpoint, why in the world would you dress women up like a cartoon sponge and then have them shake their butts in the camera? Bad taste.

Anonymous said...

"Booty is Booty"...Yeah, Ok, No more B.K. for us. Guess I'm a boomer who, also finds this insulting and will pass the word along...

Anonymous said...

Funny - I guess. Inappropriate, extremely. How can anyone who saw this commercial think that it only is targeting adults? Hello - Spongebob is a CHILDREN'S cartoon, and Kid's Meals are for KIDS. The commercial is full of girls shaking their (square) butts all over the place. And Sir Mix A Lot's comment at the end - "Booty is Booty" - what's that supposed to mean?? Maybe they only air the commercial at night, but my guess is many kids aren't in bed by 8pm, plus, it's on youtube. My jr high students LIVE on youtube. It's not like kids will be sheltered from it.

One of the first things I thought of when I saw this commercial was the Carl's Jr commercial with Paris Hilton. These commercials may be "aimed" for adults, but come on. Kids see these sexually charged commercials, and the more we see it every day, the more acceptable it becomes. I'm not saying that this commercial is going to derail the morals of our society, but it's little things like this that pull us further and further away from what is pure.

Chris said...

Josh, it really worries me if you think that commercial is asexual. Perhaps the word you're looking for is amoral. Our society is not only driven by morals opposed to Christianity, immorality, but worse, a complete lack of any morality at all. The sexual message is overt, "Booty is booty." Was Sirmixalot's original song asexual too? You'd have to say that to be consistent.

Juan said...

I believe the issues of worldview are plain as Walt stated. We have to address and explain the differences in worldviews to our students. So often we rant and rave over this and that, but the truth of the matter is people 100% of the time are true to their worldview. We have to teach our students a Biblical worldview. We have to help them identify secular humanism and their, ever so frequent, assumptive language and help them view it for what it is and move on.

Josh Mann said...

@Matt and @Chris

First off...sirmixalot's original song is definitely not asexual. And that is not inconsistent with my prior comment. I don't understand how girls with phone books stuffed in their pants is 'sexual.' Of course it is odd, it was meant to be unexpected and therefore memorable, odd goes a long way in getting there. I'm just struggling to see how phonebook butts is sexy or reveals the subversive underbelly of this depraved society.

njjim3 said...

stop going to BK? really? over a commercial? i kind of understand the point behind it, but if it's the commercial's message that's going to make you stop going and not the fact that it's food thats killing your body seems a little backwards.

we teach our kids to respond to TV instead of making decisions based on the bigger picture of health and wholeness?

i didn't really find the commercial that crazy offensive...but it def got the "huh?" factor.