Brussels, Belgium, has waited a good long while for its first Burger King restaurant, and the transition hasn’t been smooth.
Remember when we mentioned the brand likes to showboat? Early on, to tease its arrival in the Belgian capital, it released ads that literally asked people to choose between Burger King and the actual king of Belgium, King Philippe.
The monarchy was not having it.
We’ve all moved on since then. Months later, following Antwerp, Charleroi and Namur, the King (of burgers) finally has a home of its own in Brussels—in Auderghem, to be precise, which isn’t exactly central.
“When Burger King reached out to us to face Belgian agencies in their competition, we knew they were seeking this kind of idea, a little crazy but precisely insightful,” explained president and executive creative director Georges Mohammed-Chérif of Buzzman in Paris—which ideated the work—to AdFreak.
“Our client immediately loved this idea. It was simple but surprising, and never seen before in Belgium. They had concerns about the restaurant being isolated, and when we told them it was the first ‘drive-to-store’ that actually does, I think they appreciated our understanding of the brief.”
Buzzman has been the brains behind many of BK’s weirder and more outrageous antics, from toothpaste and ugly Christmas sweaters to mystery burgers and toadies who’ll wait in line for Whoppers on behalf of French customers, who’ve been clamoring for them since the Dark-Ages-reminiscent Whopper Blackout period.
It was also the igniting force behind the King Philippe drama, though that’s far from the first fight it’s picked. You want to talk about measuring your member? Ask McDonald’s how Buzzman does it for Burger King.
“We’ve been working for Burger King Belgium since their very arrival,” Mohammed-Chérif acknowledges. “We launched a first campaign a few months ago—‘Who’s the King?’—which urged people to choose the true king between Burger King and King Philippe. The monarchy didn’t really enjoy it, but the campaign went viral all over the world.”
In some ways, the Whopper Bus was an act of goodwill resulting from that response.
“For this new opening, in the Brussels agglomeration, we wanted to do something more positive and show some love,” he continues. “As we know that the people of Brussels had been waiting awhile, and that the new restaurant is not really in the heart of the city, we decided to create the first bus line that goes through all the city, and brings them directly to the Burger King in Auderghem.”
Mohammed-Chérif also revealed what actually went down behind the scenes with that first King campaign, which many people thought was staged from start to finish.
“The monarchy wasn’t very amused by the first campaign, and they told us, and the press,” he recalls. “It was an awkward situation, but a PR opportunity as well. Burger King had a conversation with the Palace, and we decided to end the campaign prematurely by revealing the winner: King Philippe. He really did win by a close 51/49 [vote]—which we really hadn’t seen coming, to be honest.”
That’s something pretty close to a coup! Never mind angry tweeters, how often does a brand have to crisis-manage a monarchy it’s nearly overthrown?
“As a peaceful gesture, we took the ‘King’ off our logo on social media and in construction panels on the restaurants at the time. What’s funny is many people thought it was all planned from the beginning, but it really wasn’t. So the Palace appreciated the effort and our quick reaction.”
Miraculously, this story has a happy ending. (Take notes on how to bend the knee, agencies.)
“In the end, everybody spoke about this campaign in a positive way, so everyone won,” says Mohammed-Chérif.
The Whopper Bus is the fruit of a partnership with De Lijn, a Belgian transport company. It is swathed in BK colors and is running from Wednesday to Saturday this week—so tomorrow is the last day people can take advantage of it. It starts at Bourse, right in Brussels’ city center, then winds through Brussels-Midi before cutting through Avenue Louise to stop at the Bascule (Uccle).
Its route ends at the new location in Auderghem, on the Boulevard du Souverain (apt).
At every stop, tickets and swag will be shared with passengers, and the entire line is free. It runs roughly between 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.
“We are currently working on all the 2018 strategy, and we’re pretty sure you will hear about Burger King Belgium again,” Mohammed-Chérif adds.
Hopefully this time the Royal Palace won’t have to issue a press release.
Client: Burger King
Marketing Director – Dirk Lammens
Marketing Project Manager – Vic Dresen
President and Executive Creative Director – Georges Mohammed – Chérif
Vice – President – Thomas Granger
General Director – Julien Levilain
Creative Director – Jean-Christophe Royer
Conception : Edouard Jacquelin & Elie Souffan
Artistic Director – Edouard Jacquelin
Artistic Director – Alexandre Marques Da Silva
Copywriter – Elie Souffan
Assistant Copywriter : Alison Stolarczyk
Account Director – Xavier Devaux Landragin
Account Executive – Lola Pegoraro
Head Of Social Media – Julien Scaglione
Social Media Manager – Alexandre Ponte
Head of PR & Communication – Amélie Juillet
Head of TV Production – Vanessa Barbel
TV & Event Production – Géraldine Bourguignat
TV & Event Production – Benoit Crouet