Burger King suffers Whopper Virgins campaign backlash

LONDON - Burger King has been accused of exploitation on the back of its new US 'Whopper Virgin' campaign which features a Whopper vs Big Mac taste test among Thai villagers and Transylvanian farmers.

The premise of the Crispin, Porter & Bogusky campaign is: "If you want a real opinion about a burger, ask someone who doesn't even have a word for burger."

Called 'Whopper Virgins', the campaign started with teaser ads on TV directing people to an identically named website, which promises to reveal the results of the test on Sunday afternoon US time.

The site is currently hosting a slideshow of pictures of the Transylvanian farmers, Hmong tribesman in Thailand and a remote community in Greenland, matched with teaser lines such as "Watch the whopper virgins take their first bite".

The tactic has not played well with some sections of society. Academic Sharon Akabas of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University lambasted the campaign as "outrageous" and "insulting".

Akabas told the New York Daily News: "What's next? Are we going to start taking guns out to some of these remote places and ask them which one they like better."

Marilyn Borchardt, development director for Food First, told the paper the campaign was insensitive: "The ad's not even acknowledging that there's even hunger in any of these places."

Some bloggers have also given it the thumbs-down. The Inquisitor said: "It's hard to place exactly where this begins on the level of wrongness".

Burger King has not commented directly on the reaction to the campaign.

However, Russ Klein, the company's president of global marketing, strategy and innovation, told the Wall Street Journal it approached the project with "extreme care" and "the first order of business was to be certain that we conducted the filming with respect for the cultures and people involved in the test".

Klein said the aim of the campaign was to find out how the Whopper "would perform in a world that didn't have ad or marketing awareness or any sentimental attachments" to either Burger King or McDonald's.