Whatever your opinion of the relationship between Burger King and Crispin Porter + Bogusky—and their abrupt break-up late last week—it’s hard to deny that their work together helped usher in a new era of advertising. From the iconic Subservient Chicken campaign of 2005 to the surreal Adult Swim/frat-boy humor of day-to-day BK advertising, CP+B brought bizarreness and balls-out experimentation into mainstream marketing. Unfortunately, the approach never quite proved its worth, as BK continued to drift further behind McDonald’s in market share and revenue growth. A split was inevitable, but a bit regrettable. Today, AdFreak celebrates seven years of CP+B and Burger King with a list of the 15 campaigns we’re still talking about, for better or worse. The King is dead. Long live the King.
In 2004, CP+B put Burger King back on the cultural map by reincarnating its 30-year-old King character as a silent, creepy home invader in an oversized plastic mask. But hey, he brought you free food, so how bad could he be?
Here’s a perfect example of the off-kilter copywriting that made even the most banal BK spots entertaining. Also, quite often, annoying.
The strained relationship between Whopper Jr. and his dad was often the focus of CP+B’s TV spots for the BK Value Menu. While this could have made for silly punch-line-driven dreck, the actual ad series was strangely dark and, in some bizarre way, kinda real.
A great ad makes you feel like it’s part of a bigger story, one you want to see the rest of. And this is a great ad. However, mental-health organizations didn’t necessarily agree. Such controversy was almost as much a hallmark of CP+B’s Burger King work as the King himself.
Using hidden cameras to capture awkward real-life moments is a favorite pastime for CP+B, and Whopper Freakout was one of the better ones. Customers were told BK was out of Whoppers. They freaked out.
One of CP+B’s first missions for Burger King was to gobble up McDonald’s market share as a go-to place for breakfast. (See No. 15, “Wake Up With The King.”) Six years later, they were still plugging away, this time with an admirably blatant nod to their competitor’s success.
Throughout its relationship with Burger King, CP+B specialized in finding ways to take its marketing beyond ads and into the real world. One of the more simple and brilliant ideas was the creation of “Flame,” a spray-on cologne that smells like “the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat.”
Lots of the BK work in recent years left you wondering, “What were they thinking?” But few of the head-scratchers can match this “I Like Square Butts” video, created with Sir Mix-A-Lot to promote … kids meals. As was surely expected, parental watchdog groups were not cool with it.
No King. No controversy. Just CP+B weirdness at its hilarious best.
Few spots prove just how much CP+B can get away with as “Eat Like Snake,” which masqueraded as an Asian ad at a time when only foreign work could possibly be this crazy. It’s also a great example of what I call BK’s “unapologetic advertising,” which embraced the complete disgustingness of what they were selling.