So…By now we’ve all seen or heard about Burger King’s New “Shower Cam” Microsite. If you haven’t yet, well, check it out, but not at work.

My first instinct was, a simple, “wow, I can’t believe they did this” reaction. Followed by a “wow, this is getting some incredible buzz, brilliant!”

That’s problem with transitioning from PR to Advertising – two internal, often conflicting, perspectives on these types of stunts.

So, in order to reconcile these to ideologies, I often pose questions to myself, to gauge the success of such endeavors. For example:

BK Shower Cam

What purpose did it serve?

Does this site aim to generate buzz? If so, has it been positive or negative? Or does that not matter?

Was the site designed to drive traffic to stores, and with it sales? If so, did it succeed?

How did the campaign affect public perception of the brand? Is the stunt consistent with the brand’s previous messaging?

I’m sure perception of the site will differ based on gender, so I can only speak from a guy’s point of view, but I can clearly understand why men and women alike would consider this to be a tasteless & misogynistic ploy that in no way relates to the brand.

Yes, Burger King is known for their controversial stunts, like when they offered free burgers to Facebook fans who unfriended people, aka the Whopper Sacrifice. But this, IMHO, crosses the line as it alienates 50% of the population (women).

Furthermore, as a branding strategist, I have to ask, yes, guys (and some girls too) love watching women take showers – with or without bikinis on – and I’m sure plenty would love to win a date with the Shower Babe – what the fuck does it have to do with burgers? I see absolutely no connect to the brand’s core goal of increasing store traffic & selling food, thus reducing this site to a cheap, desperate stunt, predicated on the exploitation of women and sex. So why stop there BK, why not dive headfirst and have her go bikiniless – that certainly would have generated even more of the same buzz, and clearly you’re not afraid of backlash and/or employee zero women with any clout or influence on decisions. And no, I won’t take “well, this was launched in Europe, so you have to consider the cultural divide” bullshit. That doesn’t fly when you launch a website internationally viewable  – regardless of the “.co.uk” in the URL.

So, back to my questions. I’m still at a loss as to what purpose this site serves, other than to create buzz and incite some feminist groups.

Yes it generated a ton of buzz – but around what? This isn’t a new product launch. There’s no breaking news or promotions affiliated with the shower babe.

Are there any deals available through this site not available elsewhere? Not that I know of…but correct me if I’m wrong.

As for the public perception of the brand – I’m not a frequent patron of the chain, but if anything, this distasteful maneuver would discourage me from partaking in any whopper related foodstuffs in the future.

Adage’s coverage of the stunt included this tasty little quote:

Sarah Power, marketing director U.K. and Eire for Burger King, said in a statement: “Our shower-cam gives hungry Brits the chance to watch the BK Shower Girl singing in the shower every day to help them work up an appetite for our fantastic new breakfast range.”

Um…so you’re an idiot? That’s all I took out of that statement.

Maybe I’m overreacting here – But I really don’t see the point of the site, other than incurring some modest hype and with it, backlash. I don’t foresee any positive impact on store traffic or sales – making it an ROI fail.

It doesn’t promote or achieve anything that couldn’t be done without begging for the negative press.

If the objective was to create semi-pornographic that has absolutely no place in the brand’s larger messaging and digital strategy, well then I suppose they’ve succeeded, but perhaps they are unaware of billion or so other websites that have showcase ACTUAL pornography.

So again, what added value does this site offer? It’s not innovative content or entertainment, it’s doesn’t drive sales, and it doesn’t inform. If you can think of any please let me know.

Here are some thoughts from my twitter friends on the issue. As usual, please weigh in; I’d love to hear your thoughts and counterarguments.

Comments
  1. I agree with you. I’m not a fan of the ads — not because they offend me (I’m not easily offended) — but really because I don’t see the point. Just because you have hundreds of Internet pervs watching some girl singing in the shower doesn’t mean you’re going to get more people eating at Burger King. While it does create buzz, I don’t think it’s actually going to have any ROI in terms of sales.

  2. Meg Roberts says:

    This can generate all the buzz it wants, but reading articles about a microsite featuring a woman in a burger bikini isn’t going to help me decide where I’ll buy my next fast food sandwich or entice me to become a Burger King brand ambassador. Maybe if it was tied to a promotion of some kind, it would be a different story – but this was clearly just for the shock value it has generated.

    I feel as though many companies are starting to misconstrue “buzz” with “good marketing/PR.” Just because outlets are writing or talking about you, if there’s no other incentive or message that will pique consumers’ interest, the effort is almost completely wasted.

  3. christamarzan says:

    I agree- I don’t see the point of this as selling tactic for hamburgers and fast food. Sarah Power sounds like an idiot. Sex does sell, but I feel like a better strategy could have been devised for Burger King with just a little more thought. This definitely affected my perception of BK in a negative way, which was alrady lower than other fast food chains. The ONLY thing it offers is what not to do as a corporation for publicity/buzz/marketing. Epic fail, Burger King, epic fail…

  4. Great post.

    As i said on Twitter… to me this initiative reeks of “Sexism with a hint of desperation” and those types of campaigns rarely get my attention beyond the first run through… e.g. beer commercials with mud wrestling… i get it, i get it, half naked girls.

    From what i hear the Porn industry is in decline too, so why mimic them? Sex sells, but the question is who is buying (under current economic climate)?

    • Aerocles says:

      wait, the porn industry is hurting? wow, if that’s not indicative of our economic climate, i dunno what is. america must really be in trouble. I foresee a big mobile enterprise for the adult entertainment industry, that should help them. I mean, who doesnt need something to do on the bus/train ride home…It’d be nice to seem some iphone/droid/bb apps

      • ArMeD says:

        The porn industry is hurting because too many people are willing to have sex for free and post the videos for public enjoyment. The industry has clearly underestimated the altruism of mankind. If there was ever a reason to have faith in humanity…

  5. Great post – I agree 100 percent, however Burger King doesn’t give two cents about what we think. We are not in their core demographic. They are fighting for market share of the pimple faced high school kids who go there for the cheap burgers and free refills (don’t lie, you know what I am talking about).

    This just falls as another stunt that they have pulled to generate shock value to give them the cool factor. This ad (http://jeffesposito.com/2009/06/24/classy-burger-king-ad/) might not be as visually stimulating but was equally offensive.

    I am sure that they know doing these ads was a bad idea (let’s hope), but to their demographic these campaigns use sex to sell the brand and them embracing their core. Don’t the new King commercial remind you of the Jackass and Bam Magera show where they wake up the dad in the middle of the night?

    So in closing I would say that they have given up on PR, because unless it is food or safety related, they don’t care who they piss off.

  6. sashahalima says:

    You said, “Um…so you’re an idiot?” — I completely agree. It’s senseless & if the object was to get talked about then that’s a win. Otherwise, it’s just silly & lame IMO.

  7. CSCAndrea says:

    I think this still falls in line with their shock and awe status, but misses the mark in getting actual return on investment. I would be shocked to find that this helps sales. I guess I was waiting for something a little more clever to come from this, but no…its really just a woman showering…it’s creepy

  8. @jdodd says:

    Marketing and advertising like this I find rather disruptive and, unfortunately, IMHO, give the industry a bad rep.

    On the contrary, I also believe poorly constructed and executed campaigns help set apart the more thought-out, innovative campaigns that echo on forever in this industry, ex. — VW, Budwiser, Coca-cola, Gap, Apple, etc. etc.

    I didn’t see this coming from BK to be honest and I hope its controversy doesn’t get their marketing folks into any trouble, as we all know how challenging it can be to put together a concept that takes off and receives positive feedback from the community.

    Sometimes what seems like a good idea, when executed, isn’t what you had hoped for and that’s okay, too.

  9. Amanda Oleson says:

    I totally agree with you- this is just ridiculous. I’m not the type of girl to be easily offended; we all know that sex sells, and that’s just fine. However, this is just in poor taste. There’s no real brand reinforcement here; no call to action- nothing driving customers to the nearest store, no discounts for mentioning it etc…

    Burger King has had a long history of off-color/strange etc ad campaigns in the past, but I think this really crosses a line. Yes, we are all sitting here talking about their brand, so if they were just hoping to have BK in the front of people’s minds, then fine- this works. However- I can personally guarantee that I won’t be eating Burger King for a very long time. #hugefail

  10. Whether good or bad, and I do think the campaign is pretty despicable, I do think that it fits with the BK overall brand messaging.

    They are the fast food chain that has made themselves into a bastion of fat, giant burgers and fries in the face of health group squaking and other fast food marketing efforts that focus on health, low calorie options, or “real” ingredients. Whether it be Wendy’s you know that it’s real campaign, or Mcdonalds most recent campaign with the breakdown of “real” ingredients, or Subway’s “Fresh” campaign — fast food marketers and advertisers are responding to the public perception of their food as unhealthy and terrible.

    Burger King wants to position themselves as the Bad Boy of the fast food industry, and this campaign has solidified that message, whether you think it’s dumb or not. They don’t care what the FDA says, they serve big ass burgers that fill up real people who could care less about their long term health, which, if you look at obesity numbers, is most of America ;-).

  11. brandieyoung says:

    Great post & discussion.

    Curious: are the people that hate the site from the UK? Im US based, and am no expert, but having American friends that lived in the UK for a couple years, my understanding is that from a culture perpective the humor is quite different and they push the envelope a bit in many things.

    Not defending, just asking…

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