Food advertisements typically aim to get people’s mouths watering. This year, however, Burger King went against the grain and opted for a wholeheartedly repulsive approach to showing off its best-known burger. The Moldy Whopper ad campaign was designed to promote its fresh food credentials by showing exactly what happens to a Whopper containing no artificial preservatives over the course of a month.
The stomach-churning campaign grabbed headlines and helped Burger King to sweep the awards circuit, clinching the top spot at the Clios, One Show, D&AD and, for anyone sceptical of its effectiveness, the Effie Awards. For the idea to work, the product had to live up to the promise, so when the Miami arm of global agency David pitched the concept several years ago, Burger King had to put on the brakes while it adapted the burger.
“We decided to not pursue it at the time, because we still had a long way to go in terms of doing the work on the product side to remove ingredients from artificial sources. We were already doing that work, and that’s why they came up with the idea, but we were still far [to go] in the journey,” explains Fernando Machado, who oversees Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes as global chief marketing officer at RBI.
By coincidence, Swedish agency Ingo pitched a similar idea to show the Whopper decomposing and since, like David, it is part of the WPP network, Machado brought Ingo into the mix. While the product was still being worked on, another agency – Publicis – presented yet another similar campaign idea to Burger King, and joined the party. The rest is history.
“I love the fact that all the agencies put the brand first,” Machado says. “In a world that can become very political, and competitive, Ingo, Publicis and David just wanted to do the best for the brand.” The three agencies have remained in close contact long after the project finished, including celebrating the (rather constant) stream of award wins in group chats.