The Cannes Lions Direct Jury ‘Elected A Trump’ by Awarding Burger King

Call it a stunt, call it a cheap thrill, call it what you will – just don’t call it good work.

I got into this industry because, even as a kid, bad adverts *really* annoy me. I therefore made it my business to create work that respects its audience. It’s a personal vendetta.

When I saw Burger King’s ‘Google Home Hack’ my stomach turned. It’s a gimmick, a 15-second video with a smarmy kid saying “OK Google, what is a Whopper?” which then triggers users’ Google Home devices to read aloud the Whopper’s Wikipedia page.

Honest to god, this work makes me see red. Essentially it’s malware dressed as an advert – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sure, on the surface of things it may appear “clever” but how commercially smart was it? Here we have a brand that thinks it’s worthwhile to invade your home technology, trigger it to blurt product info – literally a list of ingredients – at you whilst enabling the tech to listen to private conversations without your active consent. 

And it’s, well, boring. The brand could have at least created something worth hearing, a funny joke, an interesting story. But no. What a missed opportunity. Voice recognition technology is just coming of age – the creative opportunity was simply squandered!

You can imagine therefore my shock and dismay at seeing this work be awarded a Direct Grand Prix at Cannes. According to the website, “the Direct Lions celebrate response-driven and relationship-building creativity. Entries will need to demonstrate the pursuit and application of customer relationships, directly targeting a specific audience with a call-to-action which produces measurable and meaningful results.” 

Relationship-building creativity? No. Pursuit and application of customer relationships? No. It it was abusive and opens the door to create mistrust. The brand placed its own desires at the expense of its audience – it’s clear the brand saw more value in creating a media stunt and garnering buzz than providing content of value. And sure, there were results in terms of media value and buzz – but not meaningful results. Nothing in terms of actual bottom line customer action – you know, direct response – the category it was entered into. 

It’s rare that I get mad but when I do…  I hunted that jury down. I was taking names and I was taking numbers. I wanted the lowdown on what that jury was smoking. Lo and behold, we have one amongst us in Dubai! I reached out to Ogilvy’s Sascha Kuntze. He was on the jury that short-listed the work. I explained my issue with the work and I asked him to defend it. Here’s what he had to say:

“Your point about it being a wolf in sheep’s clothing is rather a compliment to the idea than a negative. Advertising is intrusive in its nature. It’s accessing your inner thoughts and changes them to make you want to buy stuff. Whether that’s morally good or not is to be discussed elsewhere. Being cheeky like the idea was fits the brand well. A brand that has discontinued their flagship product once to create outrage and a consumer reaction. A brand that sold a proud whopper in an environment that wasn’t necessarily open to it. A brand that made giant chicken talk. Essentially it’s an (effectively) intrusive way that’s fun rather than boring. Imagine an ad getting your dumb phone to do something because it thinks it’s you. It’s almost a satire of the mobile dependent times we live in. And (though I think not intended) a charming warning that maybe we should look at how much technology we allow into our lives and how much we should focus on the simpler things in life instead. Like a chargrilled burger for example.”

I appreciate and respect Sascha’s point of view. However if you ever wanted to know the difference between an advertising agency and a content marketing firm, it’s summed up by our respective philosophies here. What are your thoughts on the piece, dear reader?

Work like this is exactly the opposite of what we do at Bravo Romeo. We believe that to build brand equity in today’s market, brands need to focus on more audience-centric strategies, fusing the audience’s interests with the business’s goals and finding common ground from which to tell cool stories. Like Calvin Klein did just last week and like Mercedes did here in Dubai earlier this year. As Red Bull and GE have been doing for years. Check out that work. Nice huh? Cool, exciting, creative, effective. 

On a  final and funny note, the campaign did have one accidental highlight. The audience hacked back, corrupting the Whopper’s Wikipedia page, and altered the list of ingredients to say that the Whopper was made with “100% medium sized child”. Ha ha ha, BK, it’s true, you flame-grilled your audience – great to see they burnt you back.

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