McDonald’s and Burger King Are in a Trolling Battle on the Streets of Belgium

And for once, the sniping is coming from both brands

McDonald's Belgium promoted its table service while also poking some fun at rival Burger King. TBWA\Belgium
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Is the empire finally striking back?

In recent years, global fast food leader McDonald’s has been enduring nearly constant insults and mockery at the hands (and tweet-typing fingers) of smaller rivals like Burger King and Wendy’s. But McDonald’s has almost never fired a return volley, generally preferring to stay above the fray and enjoy its No. 1 standing in the worldwide burger industry.

But in Belgium, the brand seems to have decided it’s tired of always being Mr. Nice Gargantuan Burger Chain.

When a Burger King recently opened in the center of Brussels, a neighboring McDonald’s  put up a sign pointing out that it offered table service, unlike BK (or, admittedly, just about any fast food chain). “Served by a king, or served as a king?” asked the ad. The Golden Arches were also reimagined into a crown at the top of the ad’s design.

OK, so McDonald’s (via agency TBWA\Belgium) isn’t exactly going for the jugular here—especially compared to how it’s been targeted via campaigns like Burger King’s Whopper Detour and Scary Clown Night. But still, it’s a rare moment of provocation by a global marketer that has seemed content to be a whipping boy for other brands’ acidic marketing.

Burger King, of course, quickly fired back, with agency Buzzman creating an ad to run next door, saying, “Why try to roast when you can’t even flame grill?”


So are these tussles in Brussels a sign of more combative marketing to come from McDonald’s?

Probably not, though it is another sign of how TBWA’s work on the McDonald’s account is standing out from other markets.

While this work is from TBWA\Belgium (which also created 2018’s fun “Students Wanted” recruitment campaign), some of the brand’s most creative work in recent years has also been coming out of TBWA\Paris, which created this year’s impressionistic McDelivery ads, 2018’s retro Big Mac posters and delightfully minimalist 2017 ads that showed no food at all.

As McDonald’s shuffles its global marketing leadership, perhaps we’ll see a shift in the tide. If so, and McDonald’s ends up wading into the fray with the likes of Burger King and Wendy’s, forget the burgers—grab the popcorn.

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