Burger King and Y&R NZ engage in a bit of peaceful extortion, challenge McDonald’s to put down its spatula and back the McWhopper

Co-branding is fairly common practice in marketing and it pretty much always involves complementary brands, rather than direct competitors. But Burger King global and Y&R NZ are taking the idea of co-opetition much further and challenging McDonald’s to celebrate Peace Day by asking it to join forces and create the McWhopper.

The campaign was launched this morning with a full-page ‘open letter’ appearing in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune and invited McDonald’s to participate in the project and check out the website www.mcwhopper.com to view the full proposal and everything from packaging suggestions to recipe ideas.  

Executive creative director/chief executive Josh Moore, who is currently in a New York ‘war room’ drinking as much coffee as possible with a couple of other Y&R NZers, says the campaign has had an 18 month gestation. Its media arm originally took the idea to the local BK team and then got the introduction to the “very collaborative” global marketing team, which loved the idea and set about trying to make it happen.

As Moore says in a release: “When we first tabled this idea with Burger King we knew it was a long shot – asking a global icon to take their hero product and blend it with that of their biggest competitor. But we’ve been totally overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and appetite for big thinking and bold ideas at all levels of Burger King. I only hope McDonald’s jump on board and make this a monumental event in the name of Peace Day. Let’s end the beef, with beef.” 

Dear Burger King, Inspiration for a good cause… great idea. We love the intention but think our two brands could…

Posted by McDonald’s on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Initially, it looked like it was going to be a no, with McDonald’s chief executive Steve Easterbrook posting a message to Facebook not long after the invitation that was adequately described by one commentor as ‘douchey’ and finished with the line “a simple phone call will do next time”. But after getting a grilling on social media, Moore says McDonald’s, which has had a rough time of it recently as sales continue to fall, is showing signs that it wants to reverse that position and is willing to work together. 

Moore says there was always a sense that McDonald’s would look into it to see whether it was an “elaborate trick”, but they didn’t expect a kneejerk reaction like that. He says it is a simple, genuine idea and a nice gesture that he hopes they’ll roll with.

He says this is just the first stage of the campaign, and there’s a lot more creative material set to be rolled out. Like Steinlager’s White Can campaign, which had to factor in the All Blacks winning or losing, he says there is a yes road and no road. But he says there are plenty of other major burger brands in line to take up the offer if McDonald’s do say no.

They say brand is as brand does, although there is often a gap between a company’s conduct and its advertising. Coca-Cola is all about creating connections and ‘opening happiness’. It creates stunts that bring Indians and Pakistanis together. Unilever runs ads about making love, not war. But you know if Pepsi or P&G asked them to do something together to show that in the real world, the corporate competitive instinct would presumably take hold. That seems to be the case with McDonald’s. So this is a good test to see if it really is all about the lovin’, especially after its various imlovinit24 stunts early this year, including one that let people pay with hugs and high fives

If McDonald’s accepts, the burger will be created and sold at a pop-up McWhopper restaurant in Atlanta, the halfway point between Burger King’s Miami HQ and McDonald’s HQ in Chicago.

While the sentiment is good and it will raise awareness of Peace Day, an annual day of global unity on September 21 that has been successfully advocated by the non-profit organisation Peace One Day, there’s also a strategic element to it and being the brand asking puts BK in a good position. And because it hasn’t been done before, he says that’s why BK was so passionate about it. 

“We’re hoping this happens and maybe a few other brands and agencies get together too … [Peace Day] is a really good movement and it’s got really good sponsorship but not much participation.” 

Earth Hour is one event that corporates seem to get behind, but Moore says it’s not quite as much of a challenge as putting down the spatulas and shaking hands with a direct competitor.

So far the campaign has been picked up widely across Bloomberg, NYT and Mashable and #McWhopper has been trending globally on Twitter for most of the last 24 hours. Y&R NZ’s managing director Steve Kane says it’s garnered over one two billion impressions so far and the campaign has been well received around the globe (the www.mcwhopper.com website was made in four languages). YouTube also posted McWhopper to its 54 million Twitter followers. 

There are also appearances booked on CBS’ This Morning, The Daily Mirror has made one and so will the Today Show in the US. 

Y&R NZ worked with Assembly, Fish, Liquid Studios and Resn alongside Burger King and its US & global partners ABPR, Code & Theory, DAVID, Horizon, Rock Orange and Turner Duckworth. 

And it’s another big hit for the agency, which also gained a fair bit of global attention with its Love from Land Rover campaign.

Client:                                      Burger King

Agency:                                   Y&R New Zealand

CEO / CCO:                             Josh Moore

Creative Director:                      Tom Paine       

Creative:                                   Tom Paine

Head of Planning:                     Jono Key

Account Director:                      Victoria Meo

Agency Producer:                     Liz Rosby

Agency Producer:                     Sacha Moore

Digital Producer:                       Melissa Logan

Senior Designer:                       James Wendelborn

GM Media (Auckland):              Nicky Greville

Media Planner (Auckland):        Marie-Claire Manson

Animation company:                 Assembly

Film company:                          Flying Fish

Music / sound design:               Liquid Studios

Post production:                       Mandy

Digital production:                     Resn

Packaging:                                Turner Duckworth

Media (U.S):                             Rock Orange

Activation (U.S):                        DAVID

Digital (U.S):                              Code & Theory

PR (U.S):                                   ABPR

Media (U.S):                             Horizon

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