OK Google, did Burger King just give you a flame-grilled burn?

13 Apr 2017

What actually is a Whopper? Image: AzriSuratmin/Shutterstock

Burger King’s attempts to outwit Google Home worked … for a handful of hours. Now, though, the world is right again.

Yesterday, fast-food restaurant Burger King released what, at the very least, could be called a creative advertising campaign, whereby it sent a command to Google Home devices throughout the world.

The advert was short and snappy, with a Burger King employee saying: “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”

For users with a TV speaker near their Google Home devices, this advert elicited a response from the help forum, reading out the top line of the Whopper’s Wikipedia entry.

“We saw it as a technology to essentially punch through that fourth wall,” said Burger King president José Cil to BuzzFeed, calling it “a cool way to connect directly with our guests”.

“With the onset of consumers buying intelligent system devices and using them at home, we thought this was a good way to make a connection and go directly to guests and tell a story about our product,” he added.

The advert launched yesterday but, within hours, its full effects were muted as Google Home devices stopped responding. It’s unclear what Google did to halt this, but the devices still respond to the owners’ similar queries, so perhaps the specific audio recordings of the advert have been flagged.

In a fine couple of weeks for misplaced advertising campaigns, this Burger King initiative is certainly not without its flaws.

Given that Google Home devices read Wikipedia entries for queries, it means that Burger King’s best-known burger could well have been described as absolutely anything, depending on who most recently updated the Whopper’s page.

As The Verge reports, this was already evident even before the advert went live. It claims that, for almost a decade, Wikipedia’s page for the Whopper began with more or less the same sentence: “The Whopper sandwich is the signature hamburger product sold by the international fast-food restaurant chain Burger King and its Australian franchise Hungry Jack’s.”

In the days prior to the new advert, though, this was changed to a marketing-friendly retelling: “The Whopper is a burger, consisting of a flame-grilled patty made with 100pc beef with no preservatives or fillers, topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles, ketchup and mayonnaise, served on a sesame-seed bun.”

The Verge alleges this could be the work of Burger King’s marketing chief, Fernando Machado, but the Wikipedia entry has since reverted to old, as would always be the way after evidence of marketing emerges.

Most likely, Burger King’s ploy was to have a short-term impact. In which case, it succeeded.

What actually is a Whopper? Image: AzriSuratmin/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic