Posted by: oysterculture | December 17, 2008

The Whopper Virgins

The following article came by an on line group I belong to, and I thought even more interesting than the article on the add was the commentary that followed.  It was certainly something that everyone had an opinion on.  What’s yours?

By Tom Hundley | Tribune reporter

December 16, 2008

Burger King‘s “Whopper Virgins” ad campaign  is the company’s latest salvo in its long food fight with rival McDonald’s.But it appears to have missed the mark.

Critics have heaped a super-size helping of scorn on the ads, suggesting it smacks of “corporate colonialism,” “cultural bullying” and the worst kind of Ugly Americanism.

The ads use the familiar blind taste test formula, but with a twist:
”What happens if you take remote Chang Mai villagers who’ve never seen a burger, who don’t even have a word for burger, and ask them to compare Whopper versus Big Mac in the world’s purest taste test?” the voice-over solemnly intones. “The Whopper Virgins will decide.”

The Chang Mai villagers are Hmong people from northern Thailand. Inuit villagers from Greenland and peasants from the Transylvania region of Romania also have been recruited to sample the burgers.

The ads, which began running last week, have a faux Discovery Channel documentary feel.

The ad series was shot by Stacy Peralta, a documentary filmmaker and former professional skateboarder whose credits include the skateboarding film “Dogtown and Z-Boys” and “Crips and Bloods: Made in America,” a highly praised film about gang violence.

But the Whopper project has left a bad taste in the mouths of many who have seen it.

”While [Burger King] spent millions of dollars happily tracking down people with no ‘hamburger awareness’ the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has to go begging because they can only get one-thirtieth of the money they need to rebuild the developing world’s shattered food systems,” said Food First, an advocacy group that fights hunger.

Barbara Lippert, a columnist for Adweek, called the ads “culturally tone-deaf.”

But Russ Klein, Burger King’s president of global marketing strategy, defended the campaign in a news release: “During a time when consumers are craving it most, honesty and transparency are the heart and soul of this campaign. By embarking on a voyage of this magnitude that held no guarantees and left us open to vulnerabilities, we took a leap of faith that our signature product would win people over at first bite.”

We are told that the burger virgins preferred—surprise, surprise—Whoppers to Big Macs, but we are only left to wonder how American-style junk food, laden with hormones, steroids and saturated fats, was received by their pristine digestive systems.


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