Being a former marketing guy, guess I better weigh in on the controversy about a recent Burger King print ad. Heard about it? It’s the one aimed at getting more women into the culinary field. It features the tongue-in-cheek headline, “Women belong in the kitchen”.
Bill Maher brought this to my attention on his recent” Real Time” show. He was pretty annoyed that people were dumping on the ad because it’s “in such poor taste”. It’s not. And if you think it is, I pity you. You really do need to lighten up and get a life.
The ad is clever. It’s creative. And when you read the damn copy, it’s a great message of inclusion and support. But as Mr. Maher opined, “If you don’t get the joke here, then you’re stupid.” He added, “You don’t get subtlety, you don’t get humour, you don’t get perspective.”
Couldn’t agree more. So sad.
Now, I gotta tell you, when I ran my marketing agency, if one of my staff had brought me this concept, I assure you I’d be doing cartwheels with excitement. See, I used to tell my staff and my clients, the first job of advertising is to get noticed. Second, the aim of a good ad is to invite you to read further. And then third, of course, the goal is to get you to do something (you know, like buy my product or vote for me or support my cause or be aware of me or…).
This ad succeeds at all three.
The Burger King ad copy quickly noted the dearth of female chefs. They framed its scholarships as a way to increase the number of women in the profession by offering opportunities funded by the fast-food chain’s foundation. (I have no interest debating at this point the amount of funds they are devoting to the foundation. Separate issue entirely.)
But, of course, we have to abide all the terribly serious experts who want to tell you that this is what not to do when promoting a social cause. “Burger King doesn’t have the kind of ‘cultural capital’ needed to make its message about gender disparity ring authentic”. And I say Bullshit to that! You don’t need cultural capital to stand up and make a statement about the world. You need guts. Oh, and by the way, you also need to stand out in a crowded marketplace dominated by one player: McDonald’s.
“Burger King doesn’t have authority on gender equality,” another of these experts states. Well, who the hell does in the fast food business? This same master of the universe holds up Nike as a “good” example, saying “Nike deserves plaudits for its advertising campaigns supporting the Black Lives Matter movement”. Right. Like Nike owns this social movement. What crap!
Notice that these “authorities” are all college and university professors stating their oh-so-valuable opinions from the cheap seats where they sit because they couldn’t get real jobs in real world marketing. You know, where the real folks live. They tell you, with straight faces, “While the new ad might have been in line with Burger King’s brand personality, which skews cheeky and irreverent, it’s important for companies to calibrate their advertising to the times. The current climate happens to be a global pandemic that has disproportionately cost women jobs.” Well, if you’d read the ^%4#@&* copy, you’d understand that that’s exactly what the Foundation seeks to overcome. But no, you’re too fixated on reacting to a headline because it’s so awful, and you have no sense of imagination.
“Burger King doesn’t have authority on gender equality” they tell you next. I see. And who does?
This only sets up the proletariat weighing in with their own copy platforms. Like they’re experts at this, right? (How ‘bout you stick to what you’re good at and so will we.) One says, “’Women belong in OUR kitchen – anytime’” would have worked.” Yeah… and no one would have read the copy below because that’s dull, boring, tedious, uninteresting.
Oh, here’s another winner: "People who work in our kitchens need a living wage." And "We Need More Women in Our Kitchens" Now, how many people would go on to read the body copy? Not me! Works for a newspaper column, but an ad headline? Don’t think so.
These headlines BREAK that first rule of advertising.
Mid you, there’s this opinion: "Women belong in the kitchen. But so do men belong in the kitchen. Everyone belongs in the kitchen. Because the kitchen has food." Duh!
Don’t know if it was part of the intention or not (likely), but the resulting controversy over the ad has provoked lots of talk about Burger King. As theatre impresario George M. Cohan famously stated: “I don't care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right.”
The Burger King ad catches your attention. And if you read the ad, you know it’s not sexist. Get over it people. As someone said, “C’mon folks: It's a funny line from a fast food chain. Chill, will ya!” Exactly.
You know, Covid is pretty damn serious. But the pandemic doesn’t mean we all have to surrender our sense of humor does it? Can't we just relax a bit and enjoy the odd laugh? Or enjoy the odd good ad? Or maybe even the odd good burger!