Flame guerrillas: lessons from Burger King’s ad war frontline

Marcelo Pascoa and Fernando Machado

Marcelo Pascoa and Fernando Machado

Conventional advertising might be dying, but inject a campaign with some unconventional tech thinking and you resuscitate a brand’s creativity, as Burger King illustrated yesterday in its cheeky and irreverent session called Survivor’s Guide To The Adpocalypse.

Marcelo Pascoa, Burger King’s head of global marketing, and Fernando Machado, global CMO, regaled Cannes Lions audience with recent case studies that have gone viral thanks to their almost sacrilegious approach.

The US-based ‘Whopper Detour’ campaign invited consumers to download the Burger King app, which could only be activated at a nearby restaurant of rival McDonald’s. They then order a Burger King Whopper hamburger via the app for only one cent, and return to Burger King to collect the food.

“We tried giving away the burger for free for a download and no one was interested. It is the fun element of going to the rival’s outlet that engaged people,” Machado said.

During the campaign, the app was downloaded a record-breaking 1.5 million times in nine days, jumped to No. 1 in the app-stores’ charts from No. 626, and recorded 3.5 billion digital impressions. The effort also multiplied mobile sales and boosted Burger King restaurant visits.

Astonishing in an industry that rarely sees competitors openly disparaging each other, Machado pointed out how technology is “completely changing the way we drive business”.

Another campaign, set in Mexico City’s notorious traffic congestion and called ‘The Traffic Jam Whopper’, turned the concept of food delivery on its head. Order your Whopper while stuck in the rush hour and have it delivered directly to your car. This experiment increased mobile orders by 63% and the concept is being rolled out to Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Shanghai.

And coupon marketing has never been hotter than in the ‘Burn That Ad’ campaign. This had Burger King customers point their mobile vouchers at McDonald’s out-of-home ads and watch them burn — with the clever use of augmented reality.

“Technology on its own is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. Technology is completely changing the way we drive business. It is about the convenience it brings to the customer,” Pascoa said.

Harriet Palmer