WWTT? Burger King’s Moldy Whopper Ad Has People Talking … But Are They Buying?

Seeing mold on a food item usually elicits a response of disgust, followed by tossing said item as far away from you. But for Burger King, the home of the Whopper, mold is seen as a sign of beauty — of no artificial preservatives. Or at least that’s what the fast food chain’s latest moldy Whopper ad is telling us.

WWTT? Burger King Uses Mold to Show Lack of Artificial Preservatives

Seeing mold on a food item usually elicits a response of disgust, followed by tossing said item as far away from you (usually in the trash). But for Burger King, the home of the Whopper, mold is seen as a sign of beauty — and more importantly — of no artificial preservatives. Or at least that’s what the fast food chain’s latest moldy Whopper ad is telling us.

While I wouldn’t consider this imagery particularly shocking — if you’ve left something long enough in the refrigerator, you know exactly how funky and moldy food can become — putting your product front and center and letting it rot in front of a time-lapse camera is definitely not the norm for any marketer in the food business.

Burger King Moldy Whopper No Artifical Preservatives
The campaign ran in print, social media, and out-of-home (OOH), like on this transit shelter. Credit: Burger King

But Burger King doesn’t tend to play by the rules of other fast food marketers. Sure, it might not be collaborating with Crocs, but this is the brand that took the 2019 Cannes Lion Festival by storm with its Whopper Detour campaign.

According to a press release about the moldy Whopper, Fernando Machado,  Global CMO for Restaurant Brands International (Burger King’s parent company) stated:

“At Burger King restaurants, we believe that real food tastes better. That’s why we are working hard to remove preservatives, colors and flavors from artificial sources from the food we serve in all countries around the world.”

However, none of this matters if customers are turned off by the idea of a moldy Whopper, no matter what point it’s trying to make. Jonathan Maze of Restaurant Business Online took to Twitter to ask people what they thought of the campaign:

https://twitter.com/thatbilloakley/status/1230167233730506752?

For an audience who understands what artificial preservatives do (and how they’re not necessarily a good thing), I think this campaign will resonate with them. Sure, it’s not pretty, but it makes a very clear point. However, is this audience the normal Burger King audience? Or, is it an attempt to grow a new audience.

Burger King moldy burger OOH advertisement shows the lack of artificial preservatives
Credit: Burger King

Many consumers opt for fast food because it’s exactly that: It’s FAST. They enjoy the flavors and have favorite menu items, and even appreciate the affordability when compared to other dining options. But do they know enough about what artificial preservatives are … and more importantly, do they care?

According to AdWeek, approximately 50,000 people have taken to social media to share their disgust over the moldy burger. Mentions have soared by more than 500%, and the hashtag #MoldyWhopper has received more than 21 million impressions. So people might not like it, but they’re definitely talking about it.

Marketers, what do you think? Leave me a comment below, and have a great weekend!

Author: Melissa Ward

Melissa Ward is the managing editor for Target Marketing, and she has opinions! More importantly, she's a nerd for great copy and design, a disciple of authenticity, and really loves it when marketers get it right.

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