Burger King Harvests Children’s Tears to Mock McDonald’s With ‘Clown-Free Birthday’ Ads

From the creators of BK's Scary Clown Night

Family photos of horrified children are reborn as Burger King ads. Burger King
Headshot of David Griner

When Burger King’s marketing teams aren’t setting fire to just about everything these days, they’re putting the torch to mega-rival McDonald’s. In the newest installment of its ongoing effort to troll the golden arches, Burger King is again leveraging a lingering (and apparently international) cultural fear of clowns.

LOLA MullenLowe, the Spanish agency that won global acclaim for its Scary Clown Night promotion—which gives free Whoppers to those who dress as clowns on Halloween—has a new series of print ads featuring real photos of children terrified in the presence of clowns.

“Birthdays should be happy,” reads each ad, followed by copy encouraging fans to book a “clown-free birthday party” at Burger King.

“Burger King knows that birthdays are a very big deal for kids, and we believe they should be fun and clown-free,” says Marcelo Pascoa, Burger King’s head of global marketing. “We prefer to be on the good side of children’s memories, not the scary ones, like the traumatized kids in these ads.”

So is it true that people are really that scared of clowns? Burger King’s statement announcing the new campaign jokingly notes that “5 out of 5 people are terrified of clowns,” and while the reality isn’t quite so bad for the Bozo and Krusty crowd, it’s still pretty dramatic.

According to a 2016 survey by Vox, 42% of Americans report being afraid of clowns. That made clowns the No. 2 most-scary issue on the survey list, meaning they’re less disturbing than government corruption but scarier than terrorists, climate change or even the death of a loved one.

Agency: LOLA MullenLowe
Campaign: Birthday Clowns
Client: Burger King
Client Contact: Fernando Machado, Marcelo Pascoa, Rogelio Magaña
Chief Creative Officer: Chacho Puebla
Director Creativo Ejecutivo: Tomás Ostiglia, Pancho Cassis
Director Creativo: André Toledo, Saulo Rocha
Head of Art: Fabio Brigido
Head of Innovation: Fred Bosch
Copywriter: Luis Giraldo
Art Director: Felipe Antonioli
Managing Director: Tom Elliston
Global Account Director: Carlos Solchaga
Account Supervisor: Adriana Gonzalez Cid
Strategic Planner: Marcelle Santos
Agency Producer: Felipe Calviño, Diego Baltazar
Head of Communications: Sarah Okrent
Photographer: Ale Burset

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."