Was Burger King’s moldy Whopper ad a winner?

Or did the chain turn off customers with its photo of a 28-day-old premium sandwich? RB’s The Bottom Line takes a look.
Burger King moldy whopper
Photograph courtesy of Burger King

the bottom line

Burger King earlier this week broke food company advertising conventions by marketing its best-selling product in, er, not its greatest form.

The chain’s “Moldy Whopper” ad features a 28-day-old Whopper coated with mold. It’s a major departure from typical food photography, in which menu items are carefully crafted to look as appetizing as possible, even if they wouldn’t actually taste good if you ate them.

The idea, for practical purposes, was to call attention to the company’s shift away from artificial preservatives.

It did that. In spades. Twitter mentions for “Whopper” and “moldy Whopper” spiked for a couple of days after the ad appeared, according to financial services site Sentieo.

At the same time, however, such an ad is a big, big risk. Burger King is showing a picture of its primary product in a horrific state. Though the picture itself is well-done, the sandwich is far from appetizing. And that runs contrary to the general idea behind food advertising, which is to make sure customers actually want to consume what it is you’re selling.

To get an idea of what consumers think about the ad, we put the question to our Twitter followers.

And many of them didn’t like it.

A few understood what Burger King was trying to accomplish—highlight the lack of preservatives—and they still didn’t like it.

 At the same time, however, a lot of folks felt it was a success. Burger King got some mileage out of an otherwise boring photo ad.

Advertisements are about getting attention. This one definitely succeeded: We are talking about it, after all, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

Whether the ad and the shift away from artificial preservatives will work to accomplish Burger King’s ultimate goal—selling more Whoppers—remains to be seen. There is some evidence that it can work, as rival McDonald’s found when it removed artificial preservatives from its Chicken McNuggets in 2016 and sales immediately spiked.

Maybe the ad will help Burger King accomplish that. Maybe it won’t. Guess we’ll have to wait.


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