A few weeks ago I ranted about Burger King’s latest horrendous TV ad in a post titled, “I Hate Bad Ads and I Cannot Lie.” I must admit that I just took some pleasure in reading an article titled “A Royal Headache at Burger King” in the May 25, 2009 Business Week. Among the many marketing gaffes cited by the article is the SpongeBobSquarePants ad that was the source of my ire. Now, as a result of this and other marketing misjudgments by Burger King and its ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Burger King’s sales are suffering while competitor McDonalds is experiencing relatively healthy growth.
Burger King’s franchisees are particularly furious about the SpongeBob ad, which prompted 10,000 letters from angry consumers (not to mention one post from an angry blogger) and failed to boost sales despite a big advertising budget.
To be fair to Burger King, any successful company has to take risks, and that sometimes includes running ads that at first blush might seem inappropriate but eventually have a positive impact. The key, however, is to be able to differentiate between those risks that are likely to pay off and those that will likely bomb. Unfortunately, Burger King and its agency have not been demonstrating that particular skill of late, and their franchisees and stockholders are now paying the price.