Call it return of the burger wars or, at least, the first shot in a new skirmish on the fast-food battlefield.
Burger King Corp. on Thursday unveiled a television advertising campaign that pits its Whopper sandwich against McDonald’s Big Mac and Wendy’s Single.
The 15- and 30-second ads are based on the results of consumer taste tests of the three hamburgers. They highlight the reasons consumers chose the Whopper over the other two sandwiches.
The new campaign is part of Burger King’s $250 million marketing program for 1995 and is scheduled to run for 12 weeks with two more phases in the ad line to come. “The Whopper Wins” campaign comes 15 years after Burger King’s last head-to-head campaign against McDonald’s when the company touted flame-broiling over frying.
The frontal attack is a departure from recent burger war strategies in which major players have lowered prices and appealed to a post-recession sense of value, said Terry Bivens, a food industry analyst with Argus Research Corp. in New York.< And there is some question whether No. 2 Burger King’s comparative ad strategy will swipe any market share from No. 1 McDonald’s or simply increase the general awareness of fast food.
“I’m surprised they’re doing that, especially since their value strategy was so successful. It seems they’re going back,” said Dan Sarel, a marketing professor at the University of Miami.
“Most of these comparative campaigns have not succeeded in the past because most people don’t behave that way. They don’t buy hamburgers that way,” Sarel said.
Burger King thinks differently.
“I think what’s key here is it’s really the battle of the burgers ala the ‘90s,” said Cori Zywotow, Miami-based Burger King’s vice president for worldwide communications.
“It’s not the corporation beating its chest saying, ‘We won.’ It’s actually consumers saying, ‘I prefer the Whopper because it tastes great.’ It’s the voice of the people and the reasons why,” she said.
Actually, it’s the voice of actors.
None of the participants in the Burger King taste tests appears in the advertisements created by Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, UniWorld Group Inc. and Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar, Nobel & Associates.
In one commercial, a tailor measuring a man for a suit says he prefers the Whopper over a Wendy’s Single because the Whopper is round and the Wendy’s burger is square.
In another, a woman in her kitchen says she prefers the Whopper because it’s one burger under the right-sized bun while the Big Mac is two smaller hamburgers between more bread.
Zywotow said the scripts were based on the results of a taste test conducted among 1,000 people in 20 randomly selected cities by New Yorkbased Data Development Corp. She declined to give specifics about the poll methodology or the demographics of poll respondents, but a Burger King release noted the sample group was evenly divided between men and women and all were 13 years old or older.
Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s does not intend to change its current advertising campaign, which features founder Dave Thomas as spokesman, said spokesman Denny Lynch. He also cited industry magazine Restaurants & Institution’s annual nationwide consumer survey that has named Wendy’s the top hamburger chain for seven straight years.
A spokesperson from Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s did not immediately return telephone calls.