Burger King just became the first brand fail on Google Home

Yesterday, Burger King US ran a 15-second spot that ended with the question: "OK Google, What is the Whopper Burger?"

Unfortunately, Burger King created the ad without Google's input and the 'OK Google' command triggered the device to read off a description from Wikipedia that had been pre-edited by the Burger King marketing team

Why unfortunate? Because Wikipedia users almost immediately started to re-edit the entries. Here are a few of the more amusing ones spotted by Gizmodo:

  • "The ‘Whopper’ is the worst hamburger product sold by the international fast-food restaurant chain Burger King."
  • "The Whopper is a burger, consisting of a flame-grilled patty made with 100% medium-sized child with no preservatives or fillers, topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cyanide, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise, served on a sesame-seed bun."
  • "[The Whopper] has undergone several reformulations including resizing and bread changes, yet it remains far inferior to the Big Mac."

Google disabled the function just two hours after the ad first ran

Burger King's creative agency of record is WPP-owned David. However WPP was unable to confirm if the agency's Miami office was behind this ad, as claimed by Buzzfeed

The hilarious edits could be written off as a humorous failure or even a deliberate attempt to provoke a response by a historically provocative brand, as suggested by David Carr, strategy director at Digitas LBi.

Carr said: "The Burger King ad is not a Pepsi or United-level PR disaster. This looks deliberate: the old stunt of generating column inches (like this) talking about an ad and then not having to spend media money by getting it pulled.

"As soon as the ad went live the clock was ticking down until Google put a block on the audio signature and the functionality – and conceit – was defunct."

However, viewers are reportedly finding the ad intrusive, creepy and annoying, which is far more flack than a funny user-takeover usually warrants. 

The problem is that people are made very uncomfortable by a device in their home piping up as and when it wants to without their assent or control, Marie Stafford, European director for J Walter Thompson's Innovation Group said. 

She continued: "In our recent Speak Easy report, created with Mindshare, we found that 44% of regular voice users worried about companies listening to conversations they have with their voice assistant. The resentful response to the campaign shows that brands need to tread carefully so as not to alienate their audience."

Another problem with the ad is that the information conveyed by Google Home was not useful or wanted, Stafford added. 

The brand was named by Cannes Lions last month as its Creative Marketer of the Year for 2017. 

Google has declined to comment.

Update: Burger King responded to requests for comment with the following statement:

Burger King saw an opportunity to do something exciting with the emerging technology of intelligent personal assistant devices. The brand has developed a national ad campaign that could trigger guests who have enabled voice commands on their smart speaker technology. For the first time ever, a traditional :15 second television ad will be extended by the voice activation of enabled home assistant devices – essentially breaking the 4th wall.
Burger King saw a 300% increase in social conversation on Twitter yesterday compared to the day before.