3 Burger King hits and misses from outgoing RBI CMO Fernando Machado

Machado leaves behind a risk-taking legacy.

3 Burger King hits and misses from outgoing RBI CMO Fernando Machado

Fernando Machado is stepping down as Restaurant Brands International’s global chief marketing officer, but his seven-year reign produced some of Burger King’s most talked about — and controversial — ad campaigns.

Business Insider first reported the news on Thursday that Machado is resigning from the parent company of Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons. He will join video game company Activision Blizzard as chief marketing officer, according to Ad Age.

Paloma Azulay, who heads up marketing for Popeyes, will take over as global chief brand officer for RBI. 

"It has been an amazing seven years at Restaurant Brands International,” Machado told Business Insider. “I am super proud of the team's impact on the brands, especially Burger King, and work around sustainability, food quality, and diversity and inclusion. Restaurant Brands International now has a really strong marketing team, and I am confident they will continue to do great work.”

Machado kicked off his RBI career as head of brand for Burger King in 2014 and later was promoted to chief marketing officer. He was tapped as RBI’s global chief brand officer, adding Popeyes and Tim Hortons to his remit, in January 2020.

As one final stamp on the Burger King brand, Machado’s rebranded the burger chain for the first time in 20 years, which included restaurant remodeling, new food packaging and a fresh new logo.

Throughout his RBI career, Machado helmed some of Burger King’s most successful ad campaigns — but they didn’t all stick the landing. Here are three of his biggest hits and misses.

Hits

1. Moldy Whopper

We all remember the “Moldy Whopper.”

Burger King’s unconventional campaign, in collaboration with INGO Stockholm, DAVID Miami and Publicis Bucharest, featured an up close look at a Whopper that had been rotting for 35 days in an effort to prove that its food no longer has preservatives. While not the most aesthetically pleasing, the campaign earned 18 pencils from The One Show in 2020.

2. Whooper Detour

Burger King trolled competitor McDonald’s in its 2019 campaign “Whopper Detour,” which encouraged customers to visit its rival. But when people got within 600 feet of a McDonald’s location, the Burger King app unlocked a deal to order a Whopper for $0.01. The campaign, created by FCB, drove an estimated four million people to download the app between October and December 2019.

3. Whopper Neutrality

Remember the Net Neutrality debate? Burger King raised awareness about the issue in DAVID Miami’s spot, “Whopper Neutrality,” in 2018. In the ad, actors playing Burger King employees made customers wait for a long time to receive their food unless they paid extra to get it faster. The spot received a lot of buzz for its creative take on a technical issue.

Misses

1. Google Home of the Whopper

Burger King and DAVID Miami created an ad in 2017 that prompted voice-activated Google devices to describe Whopper ingredients. “You’re watching a 15-second Burger King ad, which is unfortunately not enough time to explain all the fresh ingredients in the Whopper sandwich,” the actor in the spot said. “But I got an idea. OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”

Although the spot was praised for its ingenuity, it raised issues of security and privacy concerns. The commercial later stopped activating Google devices.

2. Scary Places

Burger King tried its hand at another geo targeted, in-app campaign in 2020, but the results were unfavorable.

In October, the Burger King app encouraged customers to visit five of “the scariest places on earth.” In another dig at competitors, Burger King routed drivers to abandoned QSR restaurants across the U.S. including former Wendy’s, Sonic, McDonald’s and Jack-in-the-Box locations. If users got within 300 feet of these locations, they received a coupon for a free Whopper.

Critics thought the campaign, by MullenLowe, was done in poor taste considering the numerous restaurant shut downs in the pandemic.

3. Women in the Kitchen

Burger King most recently faced backlash after its U.K. account tweeted “women belong in the kitchen,” for a campaign created by agency DAVID Miami in March. The satirical tweet was meant to spotlight its new scholarship program for female employees in honor of International Women’s Day, but misfired.

Machado, who is vocal on Twitter, weighed in on the controversy, refusing to take the tweet down because it would “give even more attention to it.” He eventually took “full responsibility” for the campaign, and Burger King apologized and deleted the tweet.

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