Burger King’s anti-bullying ad was made in conjunction with San Francisco-based non-profit No Bully in time for National Bullying Prevention Month. It poses a brand-new question: how do you tie fast food to aggressive behavior? Answer: Beat up a Whopper Jr., and make people watch.
While garnering plenty of praise from critics, the commercial does bring a few qualms to mind.
Admittedly, the spot includes some genuine-feeling faith in humanity towards the end, but most televised social experiments do. At the end of the day, there’s no legit way to portray a fast food corporation like Burger King as wholesome. They can’t be part of wide-reaching problems like public health, wage inequality and government-subsidized agriculture, export it all over the world, then insist all of a sudden that influence be used for “the children.”
Let’s also talk about how customers clearly did not understand what the two doofs “acting natural” at the register were doing. They were supposed to be fooling people into reacting a certain way for the cameras, not putting on a skit for Rush Week. As Burger King notes, the diners were too distracted by their messed-up burgers to care much about the kids (who were actually very convincing actors). If anything, that suggests sympathetic fast food consumers are the minority, and what exactly is the point of shaming the adults who didn’t stand up for the bullied kid, anyway? They’re the ones with the wallets. Nobody wants their burger joint dishing out judgments with a side of fries.
Furthermore, the kids who watch this ad are not too dumb to feel patronized. Portraying the web of modern-day bullying as a beat-up sandwich — which was pretty beat-up looking to begin with — seems off-target and self-serving. Subliminally suggesting kids bury hurt feelings under whatever Burger King calls their Happy Meal is pretty questionable too.
And finally, let’s talk about the ethics of the destroyed Whopper Jr.’s (Whoppers Jr.?), which I assume, having participated in plenty of of food shoots myself, were numerous. I’m not speaking up for the burgers themselves, but the willingness to mess up even terrible food over and over again in front of unassuming customers to make a weak point is pretty lame. I’m not asking for no food whatsoever to be harmed in the making of a commercial product, simply that waste not be portrayed so carelessly by an industry that already has trouble with it on the heels of the release of a really awesome food waste documentary.
DO acknowledge National Bullying Prevention Month and support proactive organizations like No Bully, as Burger King wisely did. But don’t do it like they did, making people feel bad about something so they can fill the void with a product. What good is an expensive anti-bullying campaign with no staying power? Who’s going to remember a punched burger?