December 04, 2008

Long Live The King!

The U.K. Telegraph reports on bed-wetting over the latest Burger King ad campaign:

In teaser adverts promoting its "Whopper Virgins" challenge, the fast food chain describes how it sought out farmers in rural Romania, Thai villagers and residents of Greenland's icy tundra to compare its signature burger with arch rival McDonalds'.

"What happens if you take Transylvanian farmers who have never eaten a burger and ask them to compare Whopper versus Big Mac in the world's purest taste test?" one of the adverts asks. "Will they prefer the Whopper? These are the Whopper Virgins."

The "undeniable" results of the chain's "unbiased" global research which involved "13 planes, two dog sleds and one helicopter" will be unveiled in a documentary next week, according to, the website promoting the campaign.

"If you want a real opinion about a burger, ask someone who doesn't even have a word for burger," states the site to a haunting theme of drums and pan pipes. "Watch the whopper virgins take their first bite."

But critics have slammed the campaign as insulting and exploitative.

"It's outrageous," Sharon Akabas of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, 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, called the campaign insensitive.

"The ad's not even acknowledging that there's even hunger in any of these places," she told the Daily News.

The campaign has also stirred up a welter of online commentary. Brian Morrissey, writing on, likens the campaign to colonialism and declares it "embarrassing and emblematic of how ignorant Americans still seem to the rest of the world."

"It doesn't get much more offensive than this," noted The Inquisitor blog. "If visiting poor people in remote locations, some who would be at best surviving on below poverty levels and throwing a burger in their faces isn't bad enough, it gets better, because they also ask the Whopper Virgins to compare the taste of the Whopper to a McDonalds Big Mac as well.

"It's hard to place exactly where this begins on the level of wrongness."

I've seen these ads a time or two and, frankly, didn't give them that much thought. But I love the fact that they're getting this kind of rise out of this kind of professional fussy-pants.

Just to show that there is nothing new under the sun, who out there remembers the "You're imperiling U.S./Soviet relations with your insensitivity!" flak that Wendy's got with this golden oldie?


Posted by Robert at December 4, 2008 05:12 PM | TrackBack

I can't speak to the other places but hunger isn't generally a problem on a farm in Transylvania. Corrupt government agents, slick commercial agents buying your crops up too cheap, thieves, these are all problems for Transylvanian peasants. Like farmers the world over they're food rich and cash poor.

The fussy pants aren't just fussy, but culturally insensitive idiots that would have the contempt of transylvanian peasants everywhere (if they ever bothered to find out what the fussy pants are saying in the first place).

Full disclosure: Dad was born on a transylvanian farm, I was born next province over in the banat.

Posted by: TMLutas at December 6, 2008 12:44 PM

Bizarre. Absolutely bizarre.

I can't believe people are taking offense to Burger King taking Whoppers to Greenland. You've got to be kidding.

I hope Sasha Baron Cohen does something with this. I've enjoyed his equal-opportunity mockery of the liberal illuminati in the past, I'm sure he would find something to say about this. Talk about political correctness gone to seed...

Posted by: coldwarkiddo at December 6, 2008 02:35 PM