We get it: sex sells…but does it sell fast food?

By: Nicole VanScoten, guest blogger

My answer: No – well, at least not in the overly obnoxious manner that Burger King has decided to attempt using sex to sell its new “Super Seven Incher” in Singapore. What happened to subtlety?

I understand BK is trying to take the Hardee’s approach and target men, but this super-trashy ad just may have gone a little too far. Let’s look at the copy:

IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND AWAY. Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled with the NEW BK SUPER SEVEN INCHER. Yearn for more after you taste the mind-blowing burger that comes with a single beef patty, topped with American cheese, crispy onions and the A1 Thick and Hearty Steak Sauce.

That copy paired with the picture of a blow-up-doll-esque girl about to “fill her desire” with the sandwich (slathered in white mayo might I add), really just goes too far over the top for a company as large as Burger King. Can we please leave SOMETHING to the imagination?!

Aside from this ad, I’ve actually been a fan of BK’s other recent ad campaigns like the SpongeBob SquarePants commercial and the “Whopper virgins” campaign – not to mention I’m a big fan of “The King”. These recent campaigns were fun and witty without going over the top. Plus, they appealed to the general audience. I don’t know how well sandwich-blow-jobs really appeal to the same population that loved a commercial featuring SpongeBob SquarePants.

And sure, the ad is not even in the US, but it’s caused such a stir that it has critics cringing all over the world.

Lauren Kuziner, a spokeswoman for Burger King issued this statement: “Burger King Corp. values and respects all of its guests. This print ad is running to support a limited time promotion in the Singapore market and is not running in the U.S. or any other markets.”

Yes, we get it – Singapore only. And whether or not the people over there love the ad or hate it, I’m in the US and I’ve seen this ad 20 times in a past week because it’s caused such a stir. My question is – although the ad was meant only for Singapore, does its reach affect those of us in other countries? And will it affect our opinions on the Burger King brand?

I think so. From now one, maybe BK should stay away from the sex campaigns – leave that to Hardee’s (a company that’s built its reputation on sex-filled ads like this).


Nicole VanScoten is a public relations specialist at Pyxl, Inc. in Knoxville, Tennessee. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a BSC in Public Relations and a minor in Psychology. She currently runs the blog, PRetty Social, about public relations and social media. Nicole is also the co-founder of the Social Media Club – Knoxville chapter.

Comments

  1. I agree, Nicole. To me, sex does not successfully sell food. BK might be aiming to sell this certain sandwich to a target (male) market, but what about all the other (female or more conservative) BK lovers that will be offended by this ad and lose respect for the brand itself. Brands must always be cautious when targeting select demographics such as this, or their “limited-time promotion” might become a detriment to their reputation. Another ad similar to this that I found distasteful was a Quizno's “long sub” commercial in which the oven was making suggestive comments. In my opinion, there are better (and funnier) ways to be clever other than playing the sex card. Great post!

  2. I have a different view on this than most it seems.

    Using sex to sell has been around for decades and it's proven effective. It's up there with fear, greed, etc. Now, I understand that just because it's been around that it's ok – it isn't. But if done properly, I find nothing wrong with appealing to what a large portion of people are curious about – sex.

    On to this ad. I agree that the ad is crude and degrading to women. I get that. But what I want to know is this: what about the ad do you not agree with? Is it the content? The images?

    What if we changed the ad, but kept the copy? What if we used an image that was blatantly sexual? If we had a more “mature” image in which the female wasn't in an erotic pose, would that change your mind?

    Again, I think the concept is great, however the ad is poorly executed. And I ask – why can't we use sex to sell fast food?

  3. That’s another great point Kasey. I think there are certain foods that
    undeniably get ‘sex’ to sell ‘them.’ I mean Hot Dogs for one…I’ve been
    waiting for a giant supplier to push that one out of the bag, and if they
    did I wouldn’t be surprised.

    But then again, you don’t see the likes of Chiquita Banana using sex to sell
    their fruits – specifically bananas. Though I’m sure, there is an ample
    amount of materials out there for them to do that with it.

    Alcoholic drinks do it all the time.

    I think my biggest issue (aside from the fact that I just don’t get their
    new money making strategy, when their competitors are going in ANOTHER
    direction) is that in terms of Burger King – they are a family oriented,
    fast-food chain.

    You don’t see McDonald’s or Taco Bell doing this. McDonald’s especially is
    exceedingly more ‘aware’ with their sponsorship of the Olympics, the various
    Ronald McDonald houses etc., They’ve revamped their menu over the years to
    keep up with the public, and invested their time and money into new
    ventures…they advertising has grown, but not necessarily changed…at least
    not dramatically.

    While, I agree with Nicole’s article above, I’m baffled that this is how
    Burger King is trying to gain more business in a recession.

    I mean look at McDonald’s and McCafe, Starbucks is now starting a Deli-type
    of line in their stores to sell people ‘meals’ and coffee, Pizza Hut is
    becoming ‘The Hut’ with healthier choices etc., — these are all companies
    in the same ‘land’ as Burger King. Yet, BK is the only one going in the
    polar opposite direction to gain revenue.

    But going back to Nicole’s point, I don’t think you need/should use sex to
    sell-fast food. Not to mention that that is really disgusting when it comes
    to food.

    I don’t know about you, but if I were a guy, I wouldn’t want to have the
    image of the sandwich I was eating as a phallic object – especially if I was
    a straight guy. Furthermore, a straight guy, with a sandwich having
    phallic-status …and I’m eating it?

    Ummm, yea. If I were a straight guy especially…I’d run in the other
    direction.

    Burger King isn’t a clothing, perfume or liquor company. The majority of
    their audience is families – they need to take that into consideration.

  4. If you look at Burger King, they've been less conservative than McDonald's – the King, the Whopper commercials. This certaintly goes above and beyond that, but I don't see them as a family place compared to McDonald's. McDonald's also have a bigger global exposure and is more conservative (Ronald McDonald house).

    I agree with your points that this ad does nothing for me. I don't want to rush out and by their product. I think there is a more tactful way to use sex in fast food advertising. I like their Whopper commercials, I think those are alright and they use sex to sell.

    Overall, a poorly executed ad strategy.

  5. Kasey, I agree with you that it's perfectly fine to use sex to sell certain things, but this ad is just too over the top for a company like BK. Like I said, it's great if they're fun & witty and a little sexual, but this is just too much!

    Plus, Sasha makes a really good point – they're marketing to men and yet they're associating the sandwich with putting a phallic object in your mouth…seems a little off.

    All in all, I think the ad is just really tasteless…they should stick to those fun ads involving The King…

  6. Nicole — you got it.

    The AD is off-target and tasteless

  7. Kasey, I agree with you that it's perfectly fine to use sex to sell certain things, but this ad is just too over the top for a company like BK. Like I said, it's great if they're fun & witty and a little sexual, but this is just too much!

    Plus, Sasha makes a really good point – they're marketing to men and yet they're associating the sandwich with putting a phallic object in your mouth…seems a little off.

    All in all, I think the ad is just really tasteless…they should stick to those fun ads involving The King…

  8. Nicole — you got it.

    The AD is off-target and tasteless

  9. I agree, Nicole. To me, sex does not successfully sell food. BK might be aiming to sell this certain sandwich to a target (male) market, but what about all the other (female or more conservative) BK lovers that will be offended by this ad and lose respect for the brand itself. Brands must always be cautious when targeting select demographics such as this, or their “limited-time promotion” might become a detriment to their reputation. Another ad similar to this that I found distasteful was a Quizno's “long sub” commercial in which the oven was making suggestive comments. In my opinion, there are better (and funnier) ways to be clever other than playing the sex card. Great post!

  10. I have a different view on this than most it seems.

    Using sex to sell has been around for decades and it's proven effective. It's up there with fear, greed, etc. Now, I understand that just because it's been around that it's ok – it isn't. But if done properly, I find nothing wrong with appealing to what a large portion of people are curious about – sex.

    On to this ad. I agree that the ad is crude and degrading to women. I get that. But what I want to know is this: what about the ad do you not agree with? Is it the content? The images?

    What if we changed the ad, but kept the copy? What if we used an image that was blatantly sexual? If we had a more “mature” image in which the female wasn't in an erotic pose, would that change your mind?

    Again, I think the concept is great, however the ad is poorly executed. And I ask – why can't we use sex to sell fast food?

  11. That’s another great point Kasey. I think there are certain foods that

    undeniably get ‘sex’ to sell ‘them.’ I mean Hot Dogs for one…I’ve been

    waiting for a giant supplier to push that one out of the bag, and if they

    did I wouldn’t be surprised.

    But then again, you don’t see the likes of Chiquita Banana using sex to sell

    their fruits – specifically bananas. Though I’m sure, there is an ample

    amount of materials out there for them to do that with it.

    Alcoholic drinks do it all the time.

    I think my biggest issue (aside from the fact that I just don’t get their

    new money making strategy, when their competitors are going in ANOTHER

    direction) is that in terms of Burger King – they are a family oriented,

    fast-food chain.

    You don’t see McDonald’s or Taco Bell doing this. McDonald’s especially is

    exceedingly more ‘aware’ with their sponsorship of the Olympics, the various

    Ronald McDonald houses etc., They’ve revamped their menu over the years to

    keep up with the public, and invested their time and money into new

    ventures…they advertising has grown, but not necessarily changed…at least

    not dramatically.

    While, I agree with Nicole’s article above, I’m baffled that this is how

    Burger King is trying to gain more business in a recession.

    I mean look at McDonald’s and McCafe, Starbucks is now starting a Deli-type

    of line in their stores to sell people ‘meals’ and coffee, Pizza Hut is

    becoming ‘The Hut’ with healthier choices etc., — these are all companies

    in the same ‘land’ as Burger King. Yet, BK is the only one going in the

    polar opposite direction to gain revenue.

    But going back to Nicole’s point, I don’t think you need/should use sex to

    sell-fast food. Not to mention that that is really disgusting when it comes

    to food.

    I don’t know about you, but if I were a guy, I wouldn’t want to have the

    image of the sandwich I was eating as a phallic object – especially if I was

    a straight guy. Furthermore, a straight guy, with a sandwich having

    phallic-status …and I’m eating it?

    Ummm, yea. If I were a straight guy especially…I’d run in the other

    direction.

    Burger King isn’t a clothing, perfume or liquor company. The majority of

    their audience is families – they need to take that into consideration.

  12. If you look at Burger King, they've been less conservative than McDonald's – the King, the Whopper commercials. This certaintly goes above and beyond that, but I don't see them as a family place compared to McDonald's. McDonald's also have a bigger global exposure and is more conservative (Ronald McDonald house).

    I agree with your points that this ad does nothing for me. I don't want to rush out and by their product. I think there is a more tactful way to use sex in fast food advertising. I like their Whopper commercials, I think those are alright and they use sex to sell.

    Overall, a poorly executed ad strategy.

  13. Kasey, I agree with you that it's perfectly fine to use sex to sell certain things, but this ad is just too over the top for a company like BK. Like I said, it's great if they're fun & witty and a little sexual, but this is just too much!

    Plus, Sasha makes a really good point – they're marketing to men and yet they're associating the sandwich with putting a phallic object in your mouth…seems a little off.

    All in all, I think the ad is just really tasteless…they should stick to those fun ads involving The King…

  14. Nicole — you got it.

    The AD is off-target and tasteless