Burger King vs. McDonald’s: A Royal Tragedy

Burger King vs. McDonald’s: A Royal Tragedy

This week, Burger King took out a full page ad in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, pitching an idea to McDonald’s: why not lay aside our differences and combine our two best burgers, the Whopper and the Big Mac, to create a super burger that facilitates world peace. Ok, that may be quite the over-simplification. But, in Burger King’s own words:

“We’d like to propose a one-off collaboration between Burger King and McDonald’s to create something special–something that gets the world talking about Peace Day.

The McWhopper.

All the tastiest bits of your Big Mac and our Whopper, united in one delicious, peace-loving burger. Developed together, cooked together, and available in one location for one day only–Peace Day 2015, with all proceeds benefiting Peace One Day.”


They put together an interactive website and compelling animated video all in hopes of wooing McDonald’s to take part in their quest of ending all war and human suffering.

The campaign went viral and won the support of burger eaters all around the world, anxious to try the new McWhopper while satisfying both their appetites and propensity for slacktivism. However, McDonald’s did not greet the movement with equal enthusiasm. In a Facebook post, McDonald’s CEOSteve Easterbrook had this to say:

Ouch. Queue raised pitchforks and scathing Twitter posts. Some examples of consumer reaction via Facebook:

Needless to say, many people took offense to McDonald’s reaction, and much of the anger has been aimed toward them for their response. However, I’d like to propose an alternate view: Burger King is a royal d-bag.

Let me explain: imagine you are a creative agency and you’re really interested in working with a particular new client. You put together an amazing concept, pitch website, and social campaign. You launch the pitch campaign and it immediately goes viral around the world. However, the first time your client hears about it is when they open Twitter that morning. They actually really hate the concept, but social media has already gone bonkers expressing their love for the idea. There’s no way for your client to reject this idea without looking like a bad guy. Their potential willingness to work with you has morphed into a deep-seeded hatred for your blatant attempt at publicity. Your agency wins for today (Twitter followers, maybe?), but actually loses in the long run on a great shot at working with a dream client.

What would have made a great impact is if Burger King had pitched this idea to McDonald’s in private, and the two of them formed a campaign together, unveiling its greatness to the world as a united front, and blown all of our minds with the concept of burger greatness known as the McWhopper. Instead, Burger King comes out looking like a moral giant while belittling McDonald’s and vilifying an already struggling brand (or maybe that was the King’s strategy all along?). Let this be a lesson to both the agency and the client: some ideas may be great, but in today’s world of social media frenzy, some things are better left discussed offline.

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