Op-Ed: Hey, Someone Does Like the New Burger King Ad!

By Kiran Aditham 

What do you know, we have a new monthly contributor by the name of Josh Seifert, a senior marketing strategist at Brooklyn-based, IPG-owned digital shop HUGE. Josh will be speaking to you all on the last Wednesday of every month, and in his debut for AgencySpy, the Digitas/Grey alum gives us his thoughts on the well-received McGarryBowen ad for Burger King. Take it away, sir.

I love the new Burger King ad. It’s delightful food porn that makes me pay attention to something I’d otherwise ignore. Well-done. I still won’t be having a whopper, but since I’m not the target, who cares? There’s been plenty of commenting back and forth about the wisdom of the strategy, the brilliance of the creative execution, the ad’s brand building potential, etc. But without insider knowledge of the Burger King business and agency brief, we can only speculate on the wisdom of the strategy and the effectiveness of the resulting creative. Certainly, it looks nice, and oh that music. While Burger King may have opted for new thinking, a simple debate over the merits of McGarryBowen vs. CP+B misses the real, fundamental issue.

Essentially, BK has selected exactly the same paradigm of marketing communication that hasn’t been working for them: the primacy of a 30 second story to sell a burger. I’m not so foolish as to suggest that advertising isn’t important. On the contrary: It works. We’ve seen this proven again and again. But for a business proclaiming its reinvention from the ground up, shifting only the perspective in approach does not a new future make.

In the Burger QSR space, BK is a distant second to McDonald’s and only a touch ahead of Wendy’s—clearly a challenger brand. This is a problem that broadcast communication alone cannot solve. Media ismore expensive and more fragmented than ever and while an arresting truth isstill necessary for great communication, it is no longer sufficient to affect momentous change in businesses. The time when single mindedly expressing “We Try Harder” could propel a business and define a brand has passed. Consumers now expect to experience this sentiment, long before they commit to the product. While in different businesses than Burger King, two QSRs that view the world fundamentally differently than BK (and CP+B and McGarryBowen) are Starbucks and Chipotle.

Each takes a digitally driven approach, not merely to their one way marketing communication, but also to drive their core retail business. Three years ago, the concept of ordering a burrito on a mobile phone may have been logistically laughable. But today, it’s a serious business, and for the gal who uses the Chipotle iPhone app, it’s her lunchtime fling and a piece of the brand that she carries in her pocket. For Chipotle, this is unparalleled access to customer behavior data, of a depth that Burger King is either choosing to ignore by omission, or worse, does not even realize it lacks. Starbucks, for its part, essentiallyinvented a mobile payments platform with its Mobile Card application—more or less because mobile payments, a multibillion-dollar industry, wasn’t far enough along to satisfy Starbucks’ needs. This kind of digital thinking does more than just generate buzz and passing interest. It takes a marketing vehicle and makes it a significant portion of the core brand experience. And, it’s on-demand: it’s in your pocket, it’s on your laptop, and it makes you that much more loyal.

The point is, we’ve reached a place where highly successful brands can propel themselves and redefine industries almost without any traditional advertising at all. Brands that try to reinvent themselves in an old worldview will continue to struggle for relevance until they can no longer compete. Advertising isn’t going away. But the best marketing communication has become more fundamentally different than chopping avocados in a burger spot would suggest.