Burger King advertising

Burger King advertising
Burger King
Type Private
Industry Restaurants
Predecessor Insta-Burger King
Founded Insta-Burger King - July 28, 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida
Current company - January 1955 in Miami, Florida
Founder(s) Insta-Burger King - Kieth J. Kramer and Matthew Burns
Current company - David Edgerton and James McLamore
Headquarters 5505 Blue Lagoon Drive,
Miami-Dade Co, Florida (near Miami)
Area served Global
Key people Alexandre Behring (Chairman)[1]
Bernard Hees (CEO)[1]
Ben K. Wells (CFO)[2]
Products Fast Food
(hamburgers • chicken • french fries • soft drinks • milkshakes • salads • desserts • breakfast)
Revenue decrease US$2.5 billion (FY 2010)[3]
Operating income decrease US$332.9 million (FY 2010)[3]
Net income decrease US$186.8 million (FY 2010)[3]
Total assets increase US$2.75 billion (FY 2010)[3]
Total equity increase US$1.13 billion (FY 2010)[3]
Employees 38,840 (2010)[3]
Parent 3G Capital
Website burgerking.com
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International fast food chain Burger King has employed varied advertising programs, both successful and unsuccessful, since its foundation in 1954. During the 1970s, output included a memorable jingle, the inspiration for its current mascot the Burger King and several well-known and parodied slogans such as Have it your way and It takes two hands to hold a Whopper.[4][5] Starting in the early 1980s and running through approximately 2002, BK engaged a series of ad agencies that produced many unsuccessful slogans and programs, including its biggest advertising flop Where's Herb?.[6][7]

Beginning in 2003, BK began resuscitating its moribund advertising with the hiring of the Miami-based advertising agency of Crispin Porter + Bogusky (abbreviated as CP+B).[8][9] As one of CP+B new advertising strategies, they revived the Burger King character used during BKs 1970s/1980s Burger King Kingdom advertising campaign as a caricatured variation now simply called "the King". The farcical nature of the Burger King centered advertisements inspired an internet meme where the King is photoshopped into unusual situations that are either comical or menacing, many times followed with the phrase Where is your God now?.

Additionally, CP+B created a series of viral web-based advertisements to compliment the various television and print promotional campaigns on sites such as MySpace and various BK corporate pages.[10][11][12] These viral ad campaigns, coupled with other new campaigns and a series of new product introductions, drew considerable positive and negative attention to BK and helped TPG and its partners realize about $367 million in dividends.[13][14][15]

Burger King was a pioneer in the advertising practice known as the product tie-in with a successful partnering with George Lucas' Lucasfilm, Ltd. to promote the 1977 movie Star Wars. This promotion was one of the first in the fast food industry and set the pattern that continues to the present. The company's most successful period of tie-ins was the decade from 1990–2000 that saw a highly successful campaign with Disney's animated films, including the Academy Award nominated Beauty & the Beast and Academy Award winning Toy Story, and a partnership in association with the Pokémon franchise in 1999.[16][17]


United States

Beginning in 1973, Burger King ran a series of much-lampooned but successful and catchy television commercials in which its employees would sing: "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. Special orders don't upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way!" This advertising strategy aimed to contrast Burger King's flexibility with McDonald's famous rigidity. Many of the companies subsequent advertising campaigns have reiterated this same theme.

One of Burger King's first major cross-promotional successes was in 1977 when they offered several collectibles including posters, glasses and sticker sets that featured scenes and characters from Star Wars.[18] The promotion was wildly successful, and the glasses are highly sought after to this day.[19][20] The relationship with George Lucas' Lucasfilm, LTD. continued through the other two films in the first Star Wars trilogy and continued through the final film and the DVD release of both trilogies.

In 1982, Burger King created an advertising stir when it created a set of commercials featuring a then-4-year-old Sarah Michelle Gellar, in which Gellar stated that McDonald's burgers were 20% smaller than Burger King's. Arguably the first attack ads on a food chain by a competitor, the campaign was controversial in that prior to it, fast food ads only made allusions to the competition in a vague manner, never mentioning them by name. McDonald's sued Burger King, the advertising agency that came up with the ads, and Gellar. The suit was settled the following year on undisclosed terms.[21]

During the 1984 television premiere of Star Wars, Burger King commercials are featured prominently, including an advertisement about "When Burger King came to 9th Street". This advertisement shows African-American's break dancing to many Burger King products, including one man who is spinning to form the shape of a whopper.

In November 1985, Burger King spent $40 million on the "Where's Herb?" advertising campaign. The company stated that Herb was the only man in America who had never eaten a Whopper. If a customer located him in any store, he or she would win $5,000. Burger King purposely chose not to reveal what Herb looked like, resulting in annoyance among its patrons. In a Super Bowl XX commercial, Burger King finally revealed Herb as a bespectacled nerd in an ill-fitting suit. Herb toured stores across the country, appeared on The Today Show, and served as a guest timekeeper during WrestleMania 2. The campaign had little impact on sales and was quickly dropped. According to Advertising Age magazine, the Herb campaign was the "most elaborate advertising flop of the decade."[6][22] Other 1980s ad campaigns such as "This is a Burger King town", "Fast food for fast times", and "We do it like you'd do it" had little more success.

The iconic Burger King "crown", worn by Nick Van Eede.

In the early 1990s, Burger King advertised introduced its new dinner offering, dinner baskets and table service, with the "BK Tee Vee" (or "BKTV") ad campaign. The taglines for the campaign were "BK Tee Vee... I Love this Place!" and "Your Way Right Away!", which featured Dan Cortese as "Dan: The Whopper Man." Burger King's continued lack of a successful advertising campaign during the 1980s and 1990s, in contrast to McDonald's usually memorable slogans and jingles, led to ridicule by the advertising community and the general public.

In September 2002, Burger King introduced its 99¢ Value Menu. The menu was in response to Wendy's 99¢ Value Menu and included a grilled sourdough burger, a bacon cheeseburger, french fries, onion rings, soft drinks, three flavors of ice cream shakes; beef chili, two types of tacos; chicken tenders, baked potatoes and a garden salad. The ads featured the comedian Adam Corolla as the voice of BK's drive thru. Since then many of the items have been removed from the menu or have been made an optional menu item, and the menu has become the BK Value Menu with prices starting at a dollar (US).[23]


General Market:
African American market:
  • 1983–present - UniWorld Group, Inc.[4][36]
Hispanic market:
  • 2001 – June 2008 - VML, Inc.[4][39]
  • July 2008 – 2011 - Crispin Porter + Bogusky

Most recent campaigns

Shortly after the acquisition of Burger King by TPG Capital in 2002, its newly hired CEO, former Darden Restaurants executive Bradley (Brad) Blum, set about turning around fortunes of the company by initiating an overhaul its flailing advertising programs. One of the first moves by the company was to reinstate its famous Have it your way slogan as the corporate motto. BK handed the effort off to its new advertising agency, Miami-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky (abbreviated as CP+B). CP+B was known for having a hip, subversive tack when creating campaigns for its clients, exactly what BK was looking for.[8][40]

CP+B set about revamping BK's image with a complete top to bottom overhaul of how the company marketed itself to the public. Everything from the cups and bags to the company logo was completely redesigned with the intent to give BK a hip, culturally aware image that would appeal to modern sensibilities. Humorous statements, claims and product descriptions were placed on bags, product packaging and on in-store promotional materials, including a Burger King Bill of Rights that gave its customers the right to Have it Your Way. It also set about creating an advertising campaign that not only focused on television spots, but also print, web and product tie-ins.[8][41]

One of it major strategies was to revive the Burger King character used during BKs 1970s/1980s Burger King Kingdom advertising campaign. The new character was redesigned as a caricatured variation now simply called the Burger King or just the King. The new incarnation replaced the singing and dancing Magical Burger King with a non-speaking mime-like actor wearing an over-sized, grinning plastic mask resembling the original actor who played King. Employing the practice of viral marketing, CP+B's ads generated significant word of mouth and for its new use of what has been became known as the Creepy King persona, an appellation that CP+B adopted for use in newer ads.[8]

In April 2009, a CP+B advertisement for Burger King's "Texican burger" was pulled from the air after causing an international uproar over insults to Mexico.[42][43]

The King

The humor of the "Creepy King" is derived from the fact that he is a medieval king with a disproportionately large plastic head whose smiling facial expression never changes and who turns up unexpectedly and in unusual or anachronistic locations. The "Creepy King" was first used to advertise the chain's breakfast sandwiches. The King presented a breakfast product to unsuspecting consumers in unexpected places such as their own bedroom or in their front yards. The new breakfast slogan "Wake up with the King" also began showing up in these ads. The farcical nature of the Burger King centered advertisements inspired an internet meme where the King is photoshopped into unusual situations that are either comical or menacing, many times followed with the phrase Where is your God now?.[44]

On August 19, 2011, the company announced that it would no longer retain "the king" in advertising.

Other media

  • Movie Deal
In October 2006, it was announce that BK and CP+B were soliciting a movie deal for a film called Above the King the film is reported to be a comedy about a teen misfit who lives in an apartment above a Burger King restaurant and has an unlikely friendship with an aristocrat.[45]
  • Advergames
In November 2006, Burger Kings began selling three advergaming titles for the Xbox and Xbox 360 (entitled Sneak King, Pocketbike Racer and Big Bumpin') for an additional $3.99 each with any value meal. By the end of December, 2006, The games had sold more than 2 million copies, placing them as one of the top selling games along with another Xbox 360 hit, Gears of War.[46]


The first logo that Burger King used was a simple text version which was introduced July 28, 1953.[47] It was expanded upon by the addition of the first graphical representation of the Burger King character in the 1960s and can be described as the Sitting King logo, as the Burger King character is shown sitting atop the sign holding a beverage.[48] The sign has several versions, with the King either sitting atop a hamburger or on an inverted trapezoid with the company name along the top and its motto Home of the Whopper below it; some signs did not include the King and only had the inverted trapezoid. This logo was used in one form or another until May 1, 1969 when the famous Burger King "bun halves" logo made its debut,[49] and has continued in one form or another until the current day. As implied by its name, the logo is meant to resemble a hamburger;[50] the logo had two orange semi-circular "buns" surrounding the name, which was the "meat" of the logo. On May 1, 1994 BK updated the logo with a graphical tightening, replacing the aging "bulging" font with a smoother font with rounded edges.[51]

The current BK "blue crescent" logo was designed by the New York-based Sterling Group and made its official debut on July 1, 1999.[52][53] The new Burger King logo is a stylized version of the original "bun halves" logo. BK changed the color of the restaurant's name from red to burgundy, while leaving them sandwiched between two yellow bun halves. The new logo also tilts the bun halves and the font on an axis, has a smaller "bun" motif and wraps the burger with a blue crescent, giving it a more circular appearance. Most restaurants did not acquire newer signs with the new logo, menus, and drive-thru ordering speakers until 2001. Again, all secondary signage was updated with the new logo and sharp type face, and all sign posts were repainted to match the blue coloring of the new crescent from their original black.[54]

International variations

The Hungry Jack's logo is based on the Burger King "bun halves" design. HJ currently uses a variation of the second generation "bun halves" logo, featuring the smoother font used in the Burger King logo from 1994. In Arabic speaking countries the logo is mirrored and uses characters from the Arabic alphabet (برغر كينغ); otherwise the logo is identical to the "blue crescent" logo used in the west. With the expansion of the company inside Russia with its first store in Moscow, Burger King added another version of its logo that used non-Latin text, now in the Cyrillic alphabet (Бypгep Kинг).[55]


To establish a brand identity for its youth oriented products, Burger King created a separate logo for its children's products with the introduction of its Burger King Kid's Club in 1990. The original logo, an inverted triangle with a blue "sign", was part of the new kid's program and was used in television and print advertising; signage; and toy and meal packaging. Through the life of the program they changed the logo several times and introduced several local versions in its international market. In 1996, the company replaced the original logo with one that resembled its corporate logo, the "bun halves" logo. The new logo featured the original Burger King text logo on a single line with the kids' club text under it on two lines.[56]

The most current logo in North America is for its Club BK program which was phased in during July 2008.[57] In the countries where the BK Kid's Club is still an active promotion, BK and its franchises still use the "blue crescent" iteration that was introduced at the time the company modified its logo to the current corporate logo.

Evolution of the logos used for the children's advertising programs in the US and abroad.

Non-product oriented advertising

Over the years BK has introduced advertising that emphasized value or hours of operation. The first of these was in 1983 when BK began encouraging its stores to keep their drive thru open past midnight. At the time most QSR locations closed around 10 or 11 p.m. In the summer of 2007, BK again began advertising later hours in response to similar late night programs from Wendy's and McDonald's.[58]

In 1989 Burger King restaurants introduced "King Deals", daily specials that were offered for 99¢ with the slogan At Burger King, you not only get change, you get change. The schedule was Sunday – Whopper Junior, Monday – Big King, Tuesday – Chicken Sandwich, Wednesday – Whopper, Thursday – Bacon Cheeseburger, Friday – Fish Sandwich, and Saturday – Double Cheeseburger.

Children's advertising

United States

Starting in the 1970s and running into the 1980s, BK had a generic Kids' Club that gave children coupons for selected products each month, a small toy that rotated on a monthly or weekly basis, and an extra surprise if it was the child's birthday. Burger King has been known for its longtime giveaway of free paper crowns, which are sometimes redesigned to match any promotions the restaurant may be running.

The animated cartoons

The original advertising featured a small, animated King. The King would travel around on a modified chopper with a throne as the seat and visit a BK and present the children with small gifts. The tag line was "Burger King: Where kids are King!"

The "Marvelous Magical Burger King"

The original animated King was soon replaced by the "Marvelous Magical Burger King," a red-bearded king, acted out by actor-singer Richard "Dick" Gjonola, who ruled the Burger King Kingdom and performed magic tricks (mostly sleight-of-hand, but sometimes relying on camera tricks). This campaign paralleled McDonald's McDonaldland children's commercials, which featured "Ronald McDonald," "The Hamburglar," and "Mayor McCheese," along with other characters and mascots.

Other characters in the Burger King Kingdom included:

  • "The Duke of Doubt," the King's arch nemesis, who constantly tried to prove that the King's magic was not real; he always failed, and each commercial that featured him ended with the tag-line, "No doubt about it, Duke."
  • The "Burger Thing," a large, three-dimensional painting of a hamburger that talked.
  • "Sir Shake-A-Lot," a knight, whose name was drawn from the fact that he was often literally physically shaking, with a craving for Burger King milkshakes and armor made of BK Cups. (Sir Shake-A-Lot's name was a take-off on Sir Lancelot, and his constant shaking was sometimes misinterpreted as being a symptom of hypoglycemia from the sugar content of Burger King milkshakes.)[citation needed]
  • The "Wizard of Fries," a robot who could "multifry," or generated French fries whenever given a sample.

Kids's meal offerings

Originally, BK would only offer a kids' meal when it had a cross promotion with a children's orientated product such as a film or a holiday. With the success of McDonald's Happy Meal in the late 1970s, BK introduced its own permanent kids meal, called the Kids' Meal Pack, in 1985 with a He-Man cross promotion. In June 1999 BK introduced the Big Kids' Meal aimed at the preteen market with larger portions, which forced McDonald's to introduce its Mighty Kids Meal.

The original packaging for the Kids' Meal Pack was similar to McDonald's Happy Meal, a paperboard box with colorful graphics featuring games and BK characters or promotional images from product tie-ins. With the introduction of the Burger King Kids Club, the packaging was changed to a less expensive, multi-compartment white paper bag that had a cellophane window that displayed the toy prominently on the front of the bag and had the food in the second, larger compartment. When the Big Kids' meal was introduced, BK changed its regular Kids' meal packaging to smaller, standard single compartment bag with the Burger King Kids Club Gang in the graphics and they added a second, larger brown paper bag with graphics targeting at the preteen market for the Big Kids Meal. Eventually both bags were replaced with a single white paper bag the same size as the Big Kids' meal packaging with the preteen oriented graphics.

Kids Club

The Burger King Kids Club Gang

In 1989, Burger King re-launched its kids' meal program as the Burger King Kids Club meal across the United States and in New Zealand. The Burger King Kids Club Gang, a group of multi-ethnic fictional characters, were created to promote the Burger King Kids Club meal by providing a group of stylized characters that most kids could associate with, e.g. the brain, the artist, etc.

The members of the gang were:

  • Kid Vid, a Caucasian male who loved video games and technology; he was the leader of the group.
  • Boomer, a sports loving Caucasian tomboy with red hair tied into a ponytail.
  • I.Q., a male Caucasian nerd who wore red glasses, a green lab coat, and a pocket protector.
  • Jaws, a tall African-American male with an insatiable appetite.
  • J.D., a dog and the group's mascot.
  • Lingo, a multi-lingual, Hispanic male who liked art and carried an easel.
  • Snaps, a blonde Caucasian female who always carried her camera.
  • Wheels, a Caucasian paraplegic male in a wheelchair.

In the early 2000s a new female character was added to the group:

  • Jazz, an Asian girl who loved music and sported a beret.

Each of the characters' signatures reflected their personality, e.g. Boomer signed her name with a football and baseball for the "O"s.

Furthermore, Burger King created a "Kids Club" in which club members receive an annual mailing in the month of their birthday that contains games, product information, and a birthday gift in the form of a coupon for a free Kids' Meal. Even though the BK Kids' Club Gang has been discontinued in the US, the club itself continues in operation to this day and is the largest club of its kind in North America. Additionally, they can still be seen on some playground signs and decorations in some locations.[59] The club has been closed in New Zealand.

The Burger King Kids Club had a logo that was used from 1994–2001. The logo was a variation in the classic "Bun Halves" logo that BK introduced in 1969 and revised in 1994. It used the two "bun halves" like the main BK logo but the Burger King name was on one line under the top half of the bun, while the words Kids Club were on two lines below the BK name in a larger, different style font.

The Burger King stores in the Middle East are still using the BK Kid's Club Gang for its children's advertising, though IQ and Jazz are absent.[60]


The Honbatz characters

In 2005, the Kids Club Gang was replaced by the Honbatz, odd creatures who were designed to replace its 15-year-old Kids Club gang with a more modern group of characters that would appeal to the preteen market.[61] Each Honbatz has a personality that you would find in modern elementary school: the class clown, the brain or the rebellious one.

The new group consisted of:

  • Mixmax, a punk who likes showing off;
  • Thisorthat, a green monster that likes to eat everything but cannot decide where to start;
  • Bonny, the studious one and the only girl in the group;
  • Chomp, an intimidating, large Honbatz, who is really a big softie that wants to fit in;
  • the Eeeps, a group of small, red, ketchup-craving creatures.

They have appeared in numerous ads, and are still used in some European markets and New Zealand.

Return of the King

An updated version of the original Burger King.

In September 2006, BK began using the original animated King design from the 1970s on its cups, bags and in non tie-in kids advertising. The new (old) King is portrayed as a sarcastic type who sometimes gets in trouble for his mischief making adventures.

Restrictions on children's advertising

On 12 September 2007, Burger King announced that it was joining the The Council of Better Business Bureaus Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. The program, a voluntary self-regulation program designed to shift advertising messages aimed at children so that they encourage healthier eating habits and lifestyles.[62] As part of this new initiative, BKC has stated that it will restrict advertising to children under 12 that uses third-party licensed characters to Kids Meals that meet its Nutrition Guidelines, refrain from advertising in elementary schools and from product placement in media primarily aimed at children under 12, promote Kids Meals that meet its Nutrition Guidelines as set forth on its web site and promote healthy lifestyles and healthy dietary choices in its advertising.[63][64] In response several groups, including the CSPI, lauded the move as guarded good news.[65]


Hungry Jack's Kids Club mascots are unique to the Australian franchisee, as opposed to other international locations that use one the two existing kid's mascots, the Burger King Kids' Club or the Honbatz.


In Europe, the Kids Meal bag features two youngsters, a boy and a girl, on the packaging and advertisements. The names of the characters are not given.

In Sweden Burger Kings main slogan is "Grillat är godast, bara på Burger King" which translates to "Grilled is tastier, only at Burger King".

Promotional partners

Cross promotions

A Flash based section on the US Burger King website that allows visitors to engage in a "conversation" with some of the pin-up girls from Maxim's Hometown Hotties models as well as drivers from Waltrip Racing. It operates in a manner similar to the CP+B Sith Sense site.
  • MTV cross promo
In December 2005, Burger King teamed with MTV for a "Have It Your Way" rap contest. Burger King and MTV selected Anthony DeSean Stokes out of 400 entries to star in a commercial. Part of his winning rap was "You can have it your way, there's nothin' to it / If you can dream it, you can do it!" The commercial ran for a short time, exclusively on MTV.

Celebrity spokespersons

BK has been known to hire celebrities to pitch their products in ads. One of it most famous CSP issues was with the then unknown Sarah Michelle Gellar. Ms. Gellar, in 1981 at the age of four, appeared in a series of commercials that disparaged the size McDonald's hamburgers, claiming them to be 20% smaller than BK burgers. These commercials, some of the first to mention a fast food competitor in a TV ad, angered the McDonald's Corporation executives who in turn sued BK, their ad agency at the time the J. Walter Thompson Company and Ms. Gellar. The laws suit was eventually settled in 1982 for an undisclosed sum.[21]

A 2005–2006 viral ad campaign by CP+B had model\actress Brooke Burke and The King going through a mock celebrity courtship. The campaign had fake paparazzi photos and videos show up in gossip columns and celebrity gossip web sites across the internet.[79] The courtship followed their meeting on the set of the Whopperettes ad, dating, risqué shots of them at the beach with her topless (no nudity), an engagement and summary break up.[80] She also appears as a playable character and cover girl in the Xbox 360 games PocketBike Racer and Big Bumpin'.[81]

In 2009, CP+B and Cow PR launched the Burger King Flame fragrance in the UK, which featured Piers Morgan fronting both a poster campaign and viral video.[82]

Media Tie-ins

Burger King's first major tie-in, and one of the first tie-ins for the QSR industry, was with the 1977 film Star Wars (later renamed Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) in which BK sold a set of glasses featuring the main characters from the film. From that point on a competition between the major QSR chains became one of the cornerstones of advertising in the fast food industry. BK's early success was overshadowed by the joint venture between McDonald's and Disney in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1994 Burger King reversed the situation with its own ten film contract with Disney, a venture that led to great success as this period in Disney films was considered to be Disney's second Golden Age. BK was able to promote such top ten films such as Aladdin (1992), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Lion King (1994) and Toy Story (1995).[16] These cross promotions were some of the most successful in the industry, rivaled only by McDonald's\Ty Beanie Babies cross-promotion in 1999–2000.

The King in a Simpsons/Burger King commercial.

Burger King continued it successful partnership with Lucasfilm LTD. for the other two films in the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1984), as well as the last film of the second trilogy, Revenge of the Sith (2005). BK lost the first run tie-in rights to the first two movies of the second trilogy, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), to Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell et al.) but had an extensive tie-in with the DVD release of the two trilogies in 2006. In 2008, Burger King joined with Lucasfilm and Amblin Entertainment for the release of the fourth Indiana Jones film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.[83]

Another long running Burger King tie-in partnership has been with 20th Century Fox's property The Simpsons. BK's first promotion with Fox began in 1990, when the show became a series after three years as a short segment on The Tracey Ullman Show, and was a set of 8-to-12-inch (20 to 30 cm) dolls featuring each member of the Simpsons family. Other Simpsons/BK promotions included a British Kid's Club toy in 1998, 2000 and 2001; a Halloween themed Kid's Club toy in 2001 and 2002; A summertime special at Hungry Jack's in 2001 and The Simpsons Movie in 2007.[84] As part of the Promotion for the Simpsons Movie, CP+B produced a commercial with a Simpsons version of the King with yellow skin, overbite and four fingers as well as a web site that allowed people to make a "Simpsonized" version of themselves from uploaded pictures.[85]

See also



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