Whopper Virgins: Not Appalling. Not Brilliant, Either.

c abraham
Chris Abraham over at Marketing Conversations wrote an thoughtful critique of Burger King’s new Whopper Virgins campaign.
I appreciate Chris’s opinion: The video is at times jingoistic and, frankly, a little embarrassing if you’re an American. Burger King went out of their way to find people in local clothing minutes from major urban centers in Europe. How exactly did they do that? Much of the video is just more ugly Americans pointing and giggling at the rest of the world.
I also see Burger King’s thinking: This is a great viral piece. The effort alone – flying a broiler all around the world to cook burgers, for gosh sakes – is worthy of a documentary.
So, is the Whopper Virgins campaign ‘good’ marketing? Marketing should:

  • Help the target audience make informed decisions about products. Nothing about this video does that. Nothing tells me why I’d want a Whopper.
  • It should not make the target brand look foolish. Burger King ends up looking (in my opinion) a tad silly. They spent who-knows-how-much money to shoot this. Could they have better spent the money on other aspects of marketing? Or on their product? Also, “Whopper Virgins? Are you kidding me?
  • Make me want the product. This video utterly fails to do that. Granted, I’m a classic middle-class liberal. So I have no sense of humor. But I’m also an avid fast food consumer. This video makes me want Wendy’s.
  • Take risks. Good marketers take chances now and then. Nothing wrong with that. And this video clearly takes a gamble.
  • It should generate buzz. It’s certainly done that, with headlines like “Socially Awkward” and “Just Bad Taste?”.

I don’t think this video deserves the controversy it’s generated. You could interpret it as offensive. But would you consider it as offensive if the video had been done by National Geographic? Probably not.
But it’s not good marketing, either. It’s an art project: A huge investment of dollars in something that probably won’t pay off, in spite of the kerfuffle right now.
How many burgers do you have to sell to pay for that rental helicopter, I wonder?

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. What makes good marketing is the ability to get people talking about your product, which you’re doing right now, and others are doing as well. Any publicity is good publicity as they say, whether it’s stupid to some or not, they’re still getting publicity. And that, would be good marketing.

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