If you read this blog regularly, you'll know by now that ads by the agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky - specifically their ads for Burger King - have a tendency to get our goat. Why? Well, there's just something about an agency that seems to focus on every unpalatable aspect of television advertising - and seems to refrain from actually selling a product whenever possible - that really gets under our skin. Unsurprisingly, their Whopper Junior ads are not what you would call an exception to this rule.
Yes, that is all the Whopper Junior ads in one go. I had hoped only to write about one in particular, which I saw on TV the other night and which profoundly disgusted me, but I couldn't find it individually and hey, it's not like the other ads in the series were any better. Let's go.
Whopper Dad: "You can't sell yourself for a buck, Junior."
Whopper Jr.: "Why not?"
Whopper Dad: "Because as long as you live in my house, you'll live by my rules, you got it?"
[Mom sighs heavily while the daughter disinterestedly pokes at her cell phone]
Whopper Jr.: "I thought Burger King was the home of the Whopper."
Whopper Dad: "Oh, what is that supposed to mean?"
Whopper Jr.: "All my life you've been off being America's favorite burger, and now you want to come home and be Dad? No!"
Whopper Dad: "You get back here! Get back here!"
Whopper Jr.: "I wish I'd never been broiled!"
Mmmm. Nothing makes me hungrier for a hamburger than, uh, a nice awkward family tiff. (The 15-second version, which airs much more frequently, conveniently edits out almost all of that nonsense.) Also, does it seem odd that the "you are a talking hamburger instead of a person" gene appears to be resident on the Y chromosome? How exactly did this work that a hamburger and a woman had a male hamburger kid and a female human kid? (Ridiculous nitpicking? Maybe. But how hard would it have been to scrounge up two more hamburger costumes?) And shame on this ad for making me think about hamburger sex (although - spoiler alert - it only gets worse from here).
Also, the "America's Favorite Burger" claim dates back to a 1999 survey in which 33% of 700 respondents said the Whopper was their favorite burger. 700 people? Is that enough to proclaim yourself America's Favorite Burger when McDonald's leads in market share? Whatever. Next ad.
Whopper Jr.: "I'm just saying that with me, you always have it your way."
Whopper Jr.: "'Cause girl, I am made to order."
[Whopper Dad bursts in]
Whopper Jr.: "What the- Dad! Don't you knock?"
Whopper Dad: "What's going on? First you're selling yourself for a buck, and now this?"
Was that girl going to devour him, or have sex with him? And did he sell himself to her for a buck? Whopper Jr.: adding some prostitution to the BK value menu.
Whopper Jr.: "Stop treating me like I'm on the kids menu!"
Whopper Dad: "You get your buns downstairs right now!"
Whopper Jr.: "Eat me."
Oh, the hilarious plays on words that result when you are a hamburger and also kind of a person. Next.
Whopper Dad: "Junior, now that you're selling yourself for a buck, you're going to meet a lot of girls."
For the record, this was the one that I found really, really gross. Also, another allusion to male prostitution here, I'd say.
Whopper Jr.: "What?"
Whopper Dad: "When a Whopper loves a woman, they... boy... mix up their... sauces and stuff..."
Whopper Jr.: "Oh, Dad, please, stop!"
My sentiments exactly. What? They mix up their sauces? That imagery is revolting. What is this woman doing with that hamburger? "Ooh, the Whopper - I just love to cram it in my hoo-ha." If they had only done the earlier ad where you see that the female members of the family are humans, I would have picked the nit as I did and not really thought about it again. Now they're actively making us think about how a Whopper would have sex with a woman. Which, again, is in no way making me hungry. It's making me want to be sure I never, ever have mayonnaise on a hamburger again.
Whopper Dad: "Here, take this."
Whopper Jr.: "What's this?"
Whopper Dad: "It's an extra napkin, put it in your wallet."
No. Jesus Christ, no. If there's one thing even worse than trying to describe how hamburgers go about fucking human females, it's the idea that a napkin also constitutes some form of hamburger birth control. "Quick, wipe off that ketchup before it goes anywhere!" Hey, new slogan idea, BK: "The Whopper Jr.: It'll knock up your mouth!" You know, to be really sure that no one ever wants to order another one.
Whopper Jr.: "Yeah, thanks, 'Dr. Love.'"
Whopper Dad: "Don't mention it."
"By the way, they give those out for free at Planned Burgerhood."
This, to me, is just lazy advertising at its finest. It goes for cheap, vaguely shocking jokes while virtually ignoring the product it's trying to sell (what food product couldn't you have plugged into that ad?). And honestly, respond if you disagree, but how does this kind of weird food-having-sex association make anyone want that food? Remember a few years ago when some clueless admen on the McDonald's account gave us the "I'd Hit It!" banner ads that got laughed off the web? How is this different? How is it not much, much worse? Yes, CPB is clearly aware of what they're doing, whereas the extent to which McDonald's was out of touch was pretty hilarious on its own terms. But the association of food with sex is so much more direct and that much more distasteful in the BK ads. We've talked about this a number of times on this site and it doesn't get any less creepy the more I see it happen. CPB wants brand awareness and thinks hilarious burger-condom jokes are the way to go. I say brand awareness is no good when I am forever put off the brand because of your nasty burger-condom jokes. Maybe I'm crazy.
Okay, last one.
Whopper Dad: "Listen, I don't care if you want to sell yourself for less, but a buck?"
Whopper Jr.: "People are psyched about this, Dad! You'd know that if you'd pull your head out of your bun."
Whopper Dad: "Watch it, burger boy."
And another hilarious "burger things that sound like human things" joke rears its head. Given that there were only four ads in this sequence, what does it say for CPB's creativity that they managed to have fully half of them end with jokes in which "bun" is used in reference to its human meaning? Couldn't think of anywhere else to go with that?
That slogan also kills me: "Bringing some attitude to the BK value menu." What? Attitude? It's a hamburger. It's a hamburger, in fact, that is identical to its larger version in every way but size. That's "attitude"? I'd buy this tack with the Angry Whopper or something, but come on. Also, as I've pointed out before, I'm not sure how portraying a menu item as an obnoxious teenager is supposed to sell hamburgers. Still, if they hadn't forced me to think about burger sex, all might have been forgiven. Instead I'm just left wondering what Crispin Porter won't do in the name of being "edgy" or whatever the fuck.