The Moldy Whopper – an example of conflict and tension in advertising

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By: Jake McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer

It’s a tense time at Intermark right now, literally.

There’s COVID, but we’re also exploring the art of conflict and tension in advertising to drive engagement in our upcoming webinar. We will be discussing brands like Nike, Allstate and Burger King who take provocative and bold stances on controversial topics as well as incorporate behavioral-based strategies for conflict and tension into their campaigns.  

One example is Burger King’s controversial ad campaign highlighted by a color picture of the Whopper, their signature product, covered in mold. The body copy of the ad highlights that the Whopper can grow mold because it has no preservatives.  The reaction online was swift and generated a lot of buzz.

While there is rumor the inspiration for the campaign was McDonald’s, who claimed their hamburgers were resistant to rotting, the campaign itself is an excellent example of conflict and tension in advertising. Burger King embraced cognitive dissonance, a psychological principle that creates conflicting attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, to create disgust and in turn awareness with viewers. 

Instead of turning viewers away from Burger King, the campaign was an internet and news sensation. Its video achieved impressive results including 8.4 billion organic media impressions and was watched for a total of 1.4 million minutes on Facebook and had 2.5 million views on YouTube. Compared to Burger King’s 2019 Super Bowl campaign, the Moldy Whopper reached a level of awareness that was 50% higher and was one of the most discussed Super Bowl campaigns last year. 

Burger King’s decision to elicit disgust was intentional and led to the committed response to remove artificial preservatives from their food, and this decision ultimately became top of mind for consumers. For advertisers everywhere, their decision was not for the faint of heart (or stomach) but was immensely rewarding.

To learn more about cognitive dissonance and conflict and tension in marketing, check out our webinar on The Art of Conflict: