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Updated: Mar 2, 2020

New Burger King ad promoting the removal of artificial preservatives

Burger King, a burger chain brand known for its flippant, sometimes out-of-line advertising ideas, has made yet another attempt to break free of the mold of conventional food advertising, but this time in a manner that hits closer to the gut.

The brand’s most recent ad portrays its signature giant burger called the Whopper, slowly being consumed by bluish green mold over a period of 34 days, with the tagline reading "The beauty of no artificial preservatives,"

The point of this disturbing ad campaign is to announce Burger King’s decision to remove all artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors from its products. The decision has already been implemented in over 400 of its restaurants across Europe.

The script accompanying the ad on social media reads, “The beauty of real food is that it gets ugly. That’s why we are rolling out a Whopper that is free from artificial preservatives. Isn’t it beautiful?”

The ad has set off quite a buzz of conversation on the internet, even beyond the brand’s usual target audience, and across the advertising industry. Some think it’s a brilliant creative campaign sure to win awards in the future. Some others are calling the ad a “nutrition-washing” attempt on increasingly health-conscious consumers, arguing that removing artificial preservatives doesn’t make the burger any less unhealthy. Still others think the ad is disgusting and counter-productive, and are confused as to what exactly the brand seeks to achieve with the ad.

That question has no straightforward answer. The major purpose of ad campaigns is usually to create awareness and increase sales. Going by the former, the Moldy Whopper Ad has created a lot of awareness for the Burger King brand, making waves on social media and going viral on the internet. And, if the campaign was made with the media and advertising industry in mind, with the intention of entering it for awards and festivals, it is likely to achieve that purpose as well.

However, whether the ad will encourage more people to patronize Burger King’s Whoppers, remains to be seen. In all, the Moldy Whopper is a very risky ad, which breaks all the rules of food advertising. The Moldy Whopper is not likely to make your mouth water, but it may have more powerful long-term effects.

The Moldy Whopper ad is possibly also a very elaborate jab at Burger King’s closest competitor, McDonald’s, whose burgers are famous for undergoing little or no decomposition even after long periods. In fact, a ten-year old McDonald’s burger and French fries meal showing only slight decay can be found on display in a glass cabinet at Snotra House, a hostel in Southern Iceland.

This is not the first time In December, it revealed that it had hidden a Big Mac behind a Whopper in every U.K. ad it ran in 2019, aiming to prove the Whopper’s superior size. And in May, it launched a range of “unhappy meals” that conveyed “real” moods, in a dig at McDonald’s famous Happy Meal.

Burger King won the award for “creative marketer of the year” at Cannes Lions in 2017, one of the industry’s most high-profile events.


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