Burger King Reveals the Uncomfortable Truth About Bullying in a Remarkable In-Store Stunt

What are you prepared to stand up to?

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Bullying is a seemingly intractable problem, but there is one simple thing you can do about it. If you see it happening, you can step in and try to stop it.

Burger King, of all brands, makes that point saliently in a new ad from David Miami timed to National Bullying Prevention Month. Released this morning, the three-minute video features an interesting social experiment filmed by hidden cameras recently in a Los Angeles-area BK.

It involves the Whopper Jr., as well as a high-school junior who’s being bullied in full view of BK’s patrons. Without further spoilers, check out the spot below.

You’d think the idea of bullying a Whopper Jr. would be too goofy to work, but in the end, it does work—more memorably, in fact, than many other anti-bullying ads. It vividly demonstrates a sad truth about bullying—that bystanders would often rather not get involved. And it does so in the starkest terms, by showing how vastly more people are likely to care—or do something—about a $2 sandwich than about a fellow human’s predicament. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s depressing nonetheless to witness. (The bystander theme is one that played out in somewhat similar fashion in last week’s cyberbullying PSA from BBDO and Monica Lewinsky.)

That bleakness of the BK ad is eclipsed at the end, though, by a dose of optimism that feels quite inspirational—a neat trick for an ad that’s just presented you some seriously discouraging statistics. The bystanders who do step in quickly become the heroes. Hopefully, their actions will help make a difference in how other people react when they see bullying—not just adults but the teen peers who hold so much of the power to stop it.

As social-purpose advertising goes, it’s also incredibly well branded. The stunt takes place in a BK store, and is centered squarely around one of the menu items. That’s some clever product integration in a spot designed to do a lot more than sell.

The spot also fits the BK brand seamlessly, both in terms of its advertising history and its recent purpose-based marketing efforts. This is a brand that’s used hidden cameras a number of times (most famously with the Whopper Freakout) and also, more recently, supported lots of social causes via campaigns like Proud Whopper and Whopper Sign. It’s also tackled bullying before, in this Argentinian ad from last spring.

The new spot was directed by Smuggler all-star Henry-Alex Rubin, whose credits include Sandy Hook Promise’s “Evan” spot from last year.

“Help stop bullying at nobully.org,” the spot says at the end. No Bully, a resource and advocacy group, says in campaign materials that 30 percent of schoolkids worldwide are bullied each year, and that bullying is the No. 1 act of violence against young people in America today.

“We know that bullying takes on many forms, physical, verbal, relational and online. But the first step to putting an end to bullying is to take a stand against it,” said No Bully’s CEO and founder, Nicholas Carlisle. “Our partnership with Burger King is an example of how brands can bring positive awareness to important issues. You have to start somewhere, and they chose to start within.”

Client: Burger King

Agency: David Miami
Chief Creative Officer/Founder: Anselmo Ramos
CD: Russell Dodson / Tony Kalathara
ACD: Jason Wolske / Danny Alvarez
Head of Global Production: Veronica Beach
Associate Producer: Marina Rodrigues
Senior Business Affairs Manager: Barbara Karalis
Managing Director / Head of Account: Paulo Fogaça
Senior Account Director: Carmen Rodriguez
Account Supervisor: Rafael Giorgino
Account Executive: Jenny Gobel
Strategy Director: Jon Carlaw
Senior Planner: Matias Candia

Production Company: Smuggler
Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
Executive Producer: Drew Santarsiero
Line Producer: Leah Allina
DP: Peter Fackler

Cosmo Street Editorial
Executive Producer: Yvette Cobarrubias-Sears
Editor: Aaron Langley / Tessa Davis
Editor: Aaron Langley / Tessa Davis
Post Producer: Anne Lai

Lead Flame Artist: Patrick Poulatian
Falme Artist: George Fitz
Flame Artist: Joe Morrison
Motion Graphics: Anton Thallner
Executive Producer: Diana Young
Producer: Britney Frandsen

Colorist: Steve Rodriguez
Producer: Caitlin Forrest

Music & Mix:
Composer: Beacon Street Studios
Executive Producer: Adrea Lavezzoli
Producer: Lindsey Lerman
Mixer: Rommel Molina
Assistant Mixer: Vivi Rojas

Stock Music:
APM Music

Alison Brod Marketing + Communications

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.