Sometimes having a great idea isn’t enough. Sometimes a great idea needs to come at the right time.
Such is the case with Burger King’s nauseating yet devastatingly impactful new campaign, ‘Moldy Whopper’. The campaign highlights a surprising product benefit of Burger King Whoppers – that they can decompose and grow mould. They can only do this because, in most European countries and select markets in the US, Burger King has removed all artificial preservatives from the Whopper. So, while its rivals’ burgers can remain in plasticky perfection, uncannily, for years or even decades, the Whopper goes foosty, the way nature intended. In November, the owner of one Big Mac and fries, bought in Iceland 2009, celebrated his not-so-happy meal’s tenth birthday
– while in Utah a man revealed what he claimed was a 20-year-old McDonald’s burger.
Where does the timing come in? When Burger King originally saw the idea, pitched by DAVID Miami, Burger King wasn’t yet in a position to make such claims. The brand had started to look at reducing preservatives in its products but the reality had not yet caught up with their ambition. Then another agency, INGO, approached Burger King with a similar thought six months ago, catalysing them into action. And, as coincidence would have it, Publicis also approached Burger King with a related concept towards the end of 2019.
Fernando Machado, Burger King’s Global CMO, outlines the unusual timeline. “A version of this idea was first presented to us (Burger King) by DAVID Miami around 3 years ago. The problem back then was that we were still starting our journey to remove artificial preservatives and other ingredients from our products. So, despite the fact that we really liked the idea, we preferred to place it on our parking lot until we made more progress regarding our ingredients.
“Then around 6 months ago our partners from INGO in Sweden presented another version of this idea. It was a helpful coincidence because it reignited our desire to pursue it. And now we are in a much better place when it comes to removing artificial preservatives from the products. So,we started producing it.”
The project, then became an unusual collaboration between rival holding companies – the WPP-owned DAVID and INGO together with the two Publicis Groupe offices. It’s not the first or last time Publicis Romania and Publicis Spain have cooperated on projects.
“Because our key partner agencies know our brand by heart and understand what we are looking for when it comes to our strategy, Publicis presented something on this territory at the end of 2019,” recalls Fernando. “There were some nice things in the headlines and on the layouts of those materials. So, instead of dismissing it, we decided to ask our creative partners to collaborate. INGO and DAVID Miami produced all the materials and Publicis influenced the direction we ended up using. It’s great to see partner agencies working together for the benefit of the brand.”
This ‘direction’ was to twist the way that the mouldy burgers were portrayed, by mixing in copy and aesthetics more usually associated with beauty. When it comes to rotten food, human beings have evolved a visceral disgust response
in order to keep them safe. But instead of playing up the ickiness of the idea, the team decided to go for a less obvious and more classy approach.
The campaign combines alien-looking close-up photography of mouldy burgers with a hypnotic time lapse video. It will roll out over social channels, print and OOH.
In terms of craft, the project was more complex than would initially appear. There was, it turns out, more to it than simply dumping a burger in a warm photo studio for a few weeks. The team at INGO oversaw the production, which involved a lot of experimentation – mould grows inconsistently and, as the producers discovered, grows differently in dry, wintery Stockholm than it does in warm and humid Florida. The mold in the final assets is between 25 and 35-days worth of growth. The time lapse ‘master burger; was kept under a dark lid in a Swedish photo studio. At times the master burger ‘failed’ – that is to say, the mold turned hairy or the burger turned completely black – so in those situations the team swapped in a back up burger that had been kept in identical conditions.
“We are very proud of crafting this idea. Mold grows in a very inconsistent way. We had to work for several months, with different samples, to be able to showcase the beauty of something which is usually considered undesirable. I never thought I would become a specialist in mold, but that was required to make this one happen,” says Björn Ståhl, Executive Creative Director, INGO.
The campaign is rolling out across most of Europe and some markets in the US and the brand is being careful to only push out the claim of the artificial preservative-free Whopper in markets where this is true. Regarding the rest of the Burger King menu, the brand says that real, artificial preservative- or flavouring-free ingredients make up 90% of food ingredients in Europe and 85% in the US.
As Iwo Zakowski, General Manager Sweden and Denmark, Burger King Corporation, reveals, this is a transitionary stage and the ultimate ambition for some markets is to remove all artificial ingredients from their outlets.
“We chose our iconic Whopper sandwich to illustrate the campaign and our commitment to only offer food items without preservatives, colours and flavors from artificial sources,” says Ivo. We are finalizing this transition and soon our entire food menu will only have real ingredients in Burger King Sweden and Denmark. That’s something we are very proud of.”
Executive Creative Director: Björn Ståhl
Art Director: Max Hultberg
Copywriter: Magnus Ivansson
Planner: Simon Stefansson
Account Director: Rickard Allstrin
Account Manager: Mia Melani
Final Art: Åsa Eklund, Alexander Lundvall
AGENCY: DAVID Miami
Global CCO & Partner: Pancho Cassis
Group Creative Directors: Fernando Pellizaro, Jean Zamprogno
Senior Art Director: Camilo Jimenez
Art Director: Sergio Takahata
Group Account Director: Stefane Rosa
CCO: Eduardo Marquez, Jorg Riommi
ECD: Pablo Dachefsky
Art Director: Ivan Montebello
Copywriter: Pablo Murube
CLIENT: Burger King