"We bullied a High School Jr. and a Whopper Jr. to see which one received more complaints,” so says the text in this "social experiment," for Burger King in time for October’s National Bullying Prevention Month. They brought in kids to talk about their experiences with bullying and then Burger King created scenarios in their restaurants to see what customers would do if they witnessed it. The majority of customers ignored it. But just 12% of the population turned out to be good Samaritans who talked to the kids about bullying.
And yet, when their burgers came back with fist marks in it, they all lined up to declare their disgust with the way their food was treated. Then they discovered that their burger was "bullied," which is when this "social experiment," starts trying too hard. It explains why none of the customers have any idea what's going on. So then the Burger King employees have to wag their finger and spell it out and say something along the lines of "Hey, you care more about your burger than you do those kids." Because nothing endears a customer to a brand more than shaming.
And to be fair, let's remember the customers were in a fast food chain not expecting to participate in a commercial* and were paying money to eat there so the analogy between an economic transaction and helping your fellow man or woman no matter how young they are, is already a faulty one. The customers also have a lot on their minds. Maybe some are bullied at work. Maybe they're behind in their mortgage payments. Maybe they're just selfish pricks. Not everyone is Christ-like, you know what I mean? Also we live in dangerous times and a lot of adults don't want to be seen talking with kids who are strangers for obvious reasons and that's unfortunately the world we live in.
For the twelve percent who actually did step up, they are amazing human beings who deserve a lot of credit, much more than this spot gives them.
It does bother me that money was spent not just to make this spot, however noble it is. Not just in production but also to PR it. And to that end it's worked fantastically well since I've seen it on GQ, Fortune and HighSnobiety among other places. Maybe enough people will see it to think they should help in real life (as opposed to writing a Linkedin post about your being bullied as a child after seeing the ad which, spoiler alert, doesn't count) Either way, it's a hell of a lot of money they could have just donated to the anti-bullying organization.
There's also an interesting unintended point with this social experiment and that it isn't only customers who ignored the plight of the children as no Burger King employee stepped up to help either and I am willing to bet this would be the case outside a social experiment too, i.e., in real life.
If Burger King cares about bullying they might want to follow up by training their employees on how to look out for kids who dine in their restaurants and then talk about that as it would be a much longer lasting gesture for the brand and for kids, too. Sure they'll never have the Ronald McDonald houses for sick kids and their families, but if you knew that Burger King was essentially a safe space it would be another place you could hang out. But it's one thing to train someone how to make a Whopper and it's quite another on how to train someone to intervene in a stranger's life, especially with the number of Burger King employees out there which is why it sadly won't happen. Instead we're left with a "social experiment," that we'll talk about for the rest of the week for a fast food chain who ironically once let us bully its Subservient Chicken into doing whatever we demanded it to.
* "social experiment," for those who don't know, "Social experiment," is a tacky and ever increasingly predictable advertising technique in which you create a fabricated situation where half the people on camera are paid and the other half, whose authentic reactions you hope to capture, get paid after the fact, assuming they pass a background check. I know as I've done one or two in my career, that's how it works and a few people in my social experiment turned out to be convicted felons who couldn't star in my social experiment. In other words, the "real reactions," are paid for, and whether you stepped up to help the bullied kids or not, you still get cash from Burger King for being on camera as long as you sign your contract.
Client: Burger King