Burger King’s success makes me think about a quote from a famous ad guy.

One of the tenets of my blog Selling Eating, here, is that nobody really knows for sure how to sell food.

Every attempt is building on (or distancing itself from) whatever came before it.

Every attempt is the result of someone’s ability to convince someone else to commit funds to a theory.

Every attempt is new, even if it the ideas it contains are (if you like them) “time-tested” or (if you don’t like them) “old.”

And every attempt stands a chance of working if it has a strong strategy, regardless of how deftly it’s executed.

Burger King may be the ultimate example of that last idea.

The campaign of which the following ad is an example has been a big success for the company:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrK7Rie1g08

I do not care for this campaign. I actually dislike it very much. It’s cutesy (which is worse than “cute”), bland to the point of throwing back to mid-century Charminesque style ads, full of unoriginal ideas that I suspect are being deployed cynically and with mild contempt for their audiences—“Hey, sweetheart, trust me, it’ll work! The masses love everything about Jay Leno, they don’t care how much Steven Tyler debases himself as long as he’s willing to be self-mocking, and who doesn’t love the sexy girl who doesn’t realize how flat-out hot she is to the point she can make men turn on blenders with their genitalia. Of course, we’ll give the ladies equal time. This is great stuff, baby.”

But on the other hand, the campaign is working. It’s brought people in and sold them food—and a wider variety of food. It’s expanded the number of people willing to consider BK (the King was really polarizing and clearly aimed at a more narrow target than these ads). It’s gotten buzz depending on which celeb they pay, and leveraged the celeb value of those spokesfolks very effectively.

Still. Did we have to take it all the way back to Whipple?

All of which leads to that quote I mentioned, which is by an old Mad Man named Bill Bernbach:

“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”