Burger King CMO on how to go ‘from zero to Mouldy Whopper’

Fernando Machado discussed creativity at the EffWorks Global 2020 Conference.

Mouldy Whopper: ad saw burger left for 34 days
Mouldy Whopper: ad saw burger left for 34 days

Fernando Machado, chief marketing officer at Burger King, has detailed the creative journey that enabled Burger King to create its acclaimed “Mouldy Whopper” campaign.

Speaking as part of the IPA-led EffWorks Global 2020 Conference, Machado declared: “You don't go from zero to 'Mouldy Whopper' in the first year."

Machado said that when he started at Burger King seven years ago the brand was not creating “edgy” content.

Instead, this notion was drip-fed into the brand across a series of years in a bid to “build credibility” and refine the fast-food brand’s tone.

“I'm sorry to break it to you – no-one wants to watch your ads,” he said.

“Unless it’s the Super Bowl or Christmas, people do not sit on their couch any more, waiting anxiously to watch your typical ads; the clutter of information out there is massive, people are very distracted.”

With people less inclined to pay attention to ads, Machado encouraged creatives to make work that is “bold, edgy and will hit a nerve”.

“You need to trigger an emotion and stand out, or else you're not able to cut through,” he said.

Burger King’s “Mouldy Whopper” campaign – which speeds through 34 days' worth of a decaying Whopper to promote the burger’s removal of artificial preservatives – was among the black Pencil winners for creative excellence in advertising and design at this year’s D&AD Awards.

It also won the Top Bravery Award at Ad Club’s 56th International ANDY Awards from INGO, David & Publicis

However, the campaign did cause a stir across adland, with Lucky Generals’ Andy Nairn accusing the brand of “shock tactics”.

Machado said: “If you want to be relevant these days, you need to push the boundaries of creativity into work that will get noticed.

“We are always hitting the same nerve or trying to hit the same nerve in terms of being fun, being bold, being the challenger brand.”

With this in mind, Machado, who is Brazilian, urged marketers to focus primarily on their core products so as not to damage their brand overall.

He said: “In Brazil we say that 'you need to be careful of the small blanket' – when you are cold and you have a small blanket, you cover your head and your feet are cold, you cover your feet and your head is cold – this is pretty much how we play with our budget.

“Usually, the core declines faster than your new innovation will grow, and that can really hurt your business in the long run. In the small blanket case, make sure that your core is warm.”

For Burger King, the core is the Whopper, which has prompted the brand to release a series of quirky ads in the past year that revolve around the burger.

In July, the burger brand enlisted Tinie Tempah for a virtual performance, aptly named “Tiny Tinie performs Whoppa on a Whopper”.

The Whopper also appeared on an outdoor ad poking fun at dishonest political claims.

“The more successful you are, the more you feel tempted to expand on the brand further and you may risk leaving your core exposed,” Machado said.

“You cannot be addicted to innovation.”