Burger King’s Call For A One-Day Truce With McDonald’s Is Rebuffed
McDonald's is losing the social media burger war after declining Burger King's McWhopper olive branch.
McDonald’s didn’t exactly decline Burger King’s offer of a one-day truce and collaboration, but it didn’t say yes, either. Yet the ensuing speculation and discussion the stunt has created has likely reached a higher volume than it would have if McDonald’s had grinned and shaken hands over the deal.
First, a little background. When you’re the #3 fast food chain, what have you got to lose by offering a cease-fire to your most important competitor, which happens to be the #1 player in the space? That seems to be the thinking behind Burger King’s #SettleTheBeef campaign launched yesterday, which aims to convince McDonald’s to commemorate the United Nations-declared Peace Day by collaborating with it to create the “McWhopper” — a conglomeration of the two chains’ signature burgers.
The big event would take place on September 21, the day designated by the UN.
To support the campaign, according to a report in the New York Times, Burger King purchased full-page ads in the newspaper and the Chicago Tribune. It’s also launched a multi-lingual Tumblr — mcwhopper.com — dedicated to the project and has created multiple YouTube videos explaining it.
Here’s the video outlining the idea, which had nearly a million views at the time of this writing:
According to a report in NBR, Y&R New Zealand is the agency behind the idea for the global campaign, which has also involved multiple other agencies in a variety of locations over the last 18 months.
In the NBR story, Y&R NZ’s CEO and chief creative, Josh Moore, is quoted as saying:
[blockquote]When we first tabled this idea with Burger King we knew it was a long shot — asking a global icon to take their hero product and blend it with that of their biggest competitor. But we’ve been totally overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and appetite for big thinking and bold ideas at all levels of Burger King. I only hope McDonald’s jump on board and make this a monumental event in the name of Peace Day. [/blockquote]
The parent agency has pinned its tweet on the topic and re-purposed a lively animated GIF from the Tumblr:
— Young & Rubicam (@YoungRubicam) August 26, 2015
The “peace proposal” suggests that the two burger giants set up a one-day pop-up restaurant in Atlanta (halfway between Burger King’s and McDonald’s headquarters), at which staff in hybrid-branded uniforms would sell the McWhopper, packaged in a hybrid-branded box and paper bag.
It’s not completely clear what the fund-raising aims (if any) of the pop-up store would be. Though The New York Times reports that proceeds from the sales would go to Peace One Day, a non-profit that raises awareness about the United Nations-declared day of cease-fire and nonviolence, Burger King’s micro-site suggests the burgers would be free, but patrons would have to sign their own “peace treaties” with enemies — a standard form would be printed on tray mats.
“Corporate activation on this scale creates massive awareness. And awareness creates action; and action saves lives, ” explained Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day, in the Burger King video.
Delivered via social media, McDonald’s response, thus far, has been less than positive — implying that the effort outlined wouldn’t make a “real difference”:
— McDonald's (@McDonaldsCorp) August 26, 2015
McDonald’s response to the overture almost makes the company seems like it — unlike every beauty pageant contestant ever — is against world peace. The social media reaction to the reaction hasn’t been positive at all — even on McDonald’s own Facebook page — giving Burger King the win in this non-battle battle.
— E! Online (@eonline) August 27, 2015
— Comedy Central UK (@ComedyCentralUK) August 27, 2015
— Anna Eschenburg (@aeschenburg) August 26, 2015
To answer my own question about what Burger King has to lose, I’d suggest a copyright infringement suit. For this effort, it boldly appropriated McDonald’s logos, colors and other trade dress but shyly tries to cover its bases with an acknowledgment on every piece of creative: “McDonald’s Corporation has not yet authorized this usage or accepted this proposal.” And… it probably never will.
But Burger King’s probably made a safe bet: suing over such a thing would paint McDonald’s as even more of a poor sport.