“Screwed”, “insensitive”, “outrageous”, “offensive”… these are just some of the most common adjectives I’ve heard so far when trying to describe the most recent, and yet to launch, “Whooper Virgins” campaign from Burger King. In simple words, “Whopper Virgins” is a journey that goes to rural villages in faraway places like Thailand, Greenland, and Romania, to find people that have never try a burger before and then ask them to taste-test BK’s Whopper against the Big Mac. As part of the campaign, the teaser videos are already available in youtube, and a documentary with the results of the tasting is set to launch in 3 days at the website http://www.whoppervirgins.com/. However, the reactions to the idea are already all over the Internet and people seem to be very disgusted and embarrassed at the cultural insensitivity of it. Well, it doesn’t surprise me. While there is no doubt that it is and will continue to generate buzz and exposure for BK (as everything Crispin does), I think it is kind of heartbreaking to see the brand trying to entertain the world via such a condescending attitude towards civilizations that are, perhaps luckily, not in touch with the Western-originated fast food culinary culture. Besides, the fact that they are “thanking” these communities for their contribution to the documentary by donating educational supplies, toys, and even restoring a 17th century church in one case, automatically neutralized the goodwill nature of those actions. Well, I am sure that from a production standpoint it will be interesting and visually lovely to watch, both considering who the director was and the National Geography’ nature of the shoot. Still, I feel that as a viewers this Borat in reverse masterplay will showcase a hard to watch reality in which impoverished citizens of this planet try a fatty burger for the first time, without wondering what the impact will be to their dietary habits. I think Brian Morrisey described the it perfectly on AdFreak: “I'd say it's more embarrassing and emblematic of how ignorant Americans still seem to the rest of the world.”
There are no doubts that content integration and/or product placement are very interesting tools to engage people in unexpected time/places. However, as I spend more time interacting with media, I can't control but believe that there are still people out there that do not respect the ethics behind these type of tools and, very sadly, think they can just insert a product/brand anywhere, and sell more. I just saw this video on youtube. It seems like the National Beer Wholesalers Association hired a well known beer specialist to spend some time on TV "advising" people to include beer as the perfect accompaniment of any Thanksgiving meal. Well, I'm not sure if I am getting to picky or something but to me this is just ridiculous. Regardless of whether this "association" is ideal or not, it is so obvious to see how they are just trying to sell more beer taking advantage of the thanksgiving celebration. Integration is about marrying, organically, things that are a perfect match. It is about adding some kind of value to people's lives by finding a product/brand way into the script, becoming an integral part of a storyline and assuring that audiences would remember it the next day. It has never been about taking advantage and disrespecting traditions. That's how overtime, people lose respect for advertising.