Agencies that work with Burger King are lucky enough to have a full sandbox to play in. Over the years, the brand’s chief marketer, Fernando Machado, has been abundantly clear about how it all works: The best ideas win.
This is what helped FCB get to the finish line (after a year of development) with Whopper Detour. The same can be said for the scads of fun ideas from Burger King’s longtime agency David and the scores of other local agencies in markets around the world. The campaigns that have made an impact haven’t conformed to any one style, and are usually hard to ignore.
Which brings us to Halloween, a holiday ripe for all sorts of tomfoolery. Last year, Burger King wanted to see if eating a Whopper with a green bun could give people nightmares (according to the study, yes). A couple of years ago, in one of the brand’s better trolling campaigns against rival McDonald’s, Burger King gave away free Whoppers to people who came into its restaurants dressed as clowns.
This year, the brand is branching into a new market: dead people. Burger King is channeling the deceased to taste its latest offering, the Ghost Whopper, a burger with a white bun (created using white cheddar). The star of “The Spirit Taste Test” is Riz Mirza, a real-life medium who leads a seance, bringing the souls of dead people into his own body to try the limited edition sandwich.
Amping up the creepy factor, the experiment created by David Miami takes place in Los Angeles’ Alexandria Hotel, which closed a wing in the 1950s because of alleged paranormal activity. Using the space, unsuspecting participants are in for a wild ride as Mirza inhabits several personas. The spirits try the burger through him, and the feedback ranges from strange to downright uncomfortable.
“We immediately liked this idea because it’s one that makes you go, ‘WTF?’” Machado said. “Can you imagine being in a room with your creative partners and being presented an idea that starts with, ‘We want to do a taste test with dead people’? That happened. And the idea immediately grabbed our attention and made us laugh.”
Mirza, who is considered as trans-channel medium (think Whoopi Goldberg in the film Ghost), seems like an actor but, like all Burger King stunts, is the real deal.
“This is his full-time job,” said Veronica Beach, David’s global head of production. “We found a lot of different mediums, but we were looking for one who would take the spirit into them. We found [Mirza] two days before shooting.”
Though the idea is out on the fringes, David executive producer Carlos Torres noted that the entire endeavor needed to be taken seriously.
“[Mirza] was concerned about his reputation going into this,” Torres said. “He didn’t look silly, and it is truly who he is, which was great because it was authentic.”
As one would expect, shooting something like this had the creative team on the edge of their seats.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Torres said. “But Mirza was making personal connections with people participating, and it was very emotional. When the camera is rolling, you look at the monitor and want magic to happen, and it did.”
The Ghost Whopper is available for a limited time in select markets through Halloween.