Madison Avenue Agency Fails Advertising 101

Last night I saw a Burger King TV commercial in which two guys dressed in hamburger costumes go to Wendy’s to order hamburgers, only to conclude that Wendy’s doesn’t offer burgers as good as BK.

The primary visual displayed on the screen throughout most of the commercial is the giant Wendy’s sign in front of the Wendy’s the burger guys go to.

In their argument with the server about who has the best burger, the name “Wendy’s” is mentioned about the same number of times as the name “Burger King.”

Consequently, the average viewer who sees the commercial is more likely to think of Wendy’s than he is of BK.

In fact, if he was paying scant attention as so many viewers do, he may even think he has just seen a Wendy’s commercial.

Does BK’s ad agency not realize they have made a giant blunder here?

Hard for me to accept that grown adults hold those agency jobs, created the commercial, and thinks it’s good — and that grown adults at BK approved it.

Did none of these folks pass Advertising 101?


113 thoughts on “Madison Avenue Agency Fails Advertising 101

  • I agree completely.

    But then, I thought BK blundered big time as soon as they made the King. I used to go to BK all the time and looked forward to it, until he came along. Never been there since then – have never felt anything other than wanting to stay away from the place.

    Not that their food is on the eating plan we just started either. *grin*

  • Hi Bob

    Haven’t noticed the commercial yet, but it sounds like another example of Madison Avenue thinking they are in the entertainment business – not the sales business.

    What makes it worse is that their clients think the same way.

  • I miss the good old days when you didn’t mention the competitor by name (or logo). You only talked about the great selling points of your own product–you didn’t knock the competition. If you’re going to do that, maybe you should have to pay the price of the viewer not being clear who’s the best!
    Kristi Holl
    Writer’s First Aid blog

  • It’s funny that you mentioned them showing a competitor in the ad…last night I was watching that goofy show ‘Ad Persuasion’ and they showed the “classic” Pepsi commercial where the Coke & Pepsi drivers were bonding in a diner and when they tried each other’s product, the Coke guy wouldn’t give the Pepsi back and a fight ensued.
    They never seem to mention whether these wonderful commercials ended up increasing the sales of the product they were advertising.
    If people buy because of how your product or service benefits their life, then spending lots of money to basically advertisie your competition seems silly.

  • if an ad like this is really really targeted to a special group i think it will do it’s job.
    For example: let us say (i am unfamiliar with fast food restaurants in the united states) that BK is the place for teenagers and Wendys is a place where their parents go (W’s is a no go) than it is no damage to mention the apparent competitor.
    But either then you watched the wrong TV-show, Bob, or they showed the ad to the wrong people.

  • Gerold: the commercial runs on prime-time network television in the U.S., where virtually everyone is familiar with both BK and Wendy’s. The two chains have locations throughout the nation and for the most part target a similar audience, as far as I can tell.

  • That’s the kicker right there Fiona…no one is accountable! No one ever has to be accountable because they package their crappy ad campaigns as “branding” and “image awareness” and never give a thought as to whether it actually increases sales or not.
    The sad part is that many small business follow this type of advertising model thinking it’s the way things should be done…no wonder 90% of them end up failing.

  • I saw the ad the other night and had exactly the same response, but the only reason I knew it was a BK ad was that my husband wasn’t in the room so the TV wasn’t muted during the ad. If it had been, the ad would have looked like a Wendy’s spot.

  • I agree – this is a classic mistake. How did they think they were playing up a positive, memorable impression of their business when they spend so much time promoting the the comp?

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  • dianacacy said:

    “But then, I thought BK blundered big time as soon as they made the King. I used to go to BK all the time and looked forward to it, until he came along.”

    Well dianacacy, if I am not wrong the king has been BK’s advertising mascot since the 60s. In 2006, Burger King began using the original animated King design from the late 1960s and early 1970s commercials again. However, the second generation King is ‘portrayed as a sarcastic type who sometimes gets in trouble for his mischief making adventures’. Probably the reason why you, ‘never felt anything other than wanting to stay away from the place.’ 🙂

    Check this out:

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  • Stupidity in the TV Industrial complex is rampant. There are currently two beer ads – one for Coors and one for I think it is Miller that both use a silly convention of people alternately experiencing broiling and frigid weather to illustrate I think, the frosty pleasure of the beer – the spots are so alike they are both ineffective.

  • I guess I’ll be the outlier.

    I haven’t seen this particular ad, but have viewed many others in the overall campaign. Additionally, the Jack-In-The-Box chain (a west coast brand) does a number of ads that directly challenge their competitors.

    (Here’s the one in which they challenge Burger King: )

    First: Just as Bob was able to understand the message of the ads, so too, I’m confident, the viewer is able to understand the message. (To paraphrase: the viewer isn’t stupid they are your children.)

    Second: We aren’t in the age of “they laughed when I sat down at the piano…” and getting into the consideration set of a fickle key demographic requires ads that their attention. (If your ads can’t get their attention save your money.)

    Third: Artificial rules about not mentioning your competitors are just that: Artificial. For every rule there is a exception that makes sense.

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