A #McWhopperProposal and a McTerrible Decision

Today (Wednesday, August 26, 2015) Burger King took out a full-page ad in the New York Times (and launched a website) asking their ‘rival’ McDonald’s to join them for a one-day event to raise awareness for a non-profit cause called Peace One Day. You can read the ad by clicking on the picture to the right or by visiting http://mcwhopper.com/.

LetterThe gist of the idea was that for one day two rivals would come together to serve a burger that combined Burger King’s fan favorite (the Whopper) and McDonald’s #1 seller (the Big Mac). They would call the burger the McWhopper and it would get the world talking about Peace Day. Kind of a “if we can do it, everyone can!” statement about peace.

For a few hours the Internet literally went a little crazy. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter were flooded with salivating posts from consumers promising to give away all kinds of earthly possessions to make the McWhopper a reality. The Internet was routing for two natural enemies to coalesce.

First, let’s talk about what made Burger King’s proposal such a PR success.

  1. It was positive

Positive advertising campaigns are proven to appeal more to consumers than negative ones. Last year, Columbia University did a study about Super Bowl ads and found that “consumers responded far more favorably to ads that emphasized positive themes, even if they thought the commercials’ claims or content strained credulity.” Combine that with the fact that more than 88% of consumers think companies should try to achieve their business goals while improving society and the environment (Forbes) and you’ve got a slam dunk with this campaign.

  1. It was fun and unique

I loved how bright and colorful the ad, website, and everything associated with the campaign was—plus, the website was interactive. It was easy to promote and totally shareable. Plus, it was such a unique idea that it spread like wildfire.

  1. It was well thought out

Take one look at the website and you’ll know how much time and effort Burger King put into the idea. They made videos, they mocked up prototypes, and they formed a truly strategic plan that covered every single detail. Most PR pros can attest to how important planning can be.

Then, regardless of how well thought out the plan was, McDonald’s made a McTerrible PR decision and said… “No.” In a haughty, condescending Facebook post nonetheless! Here’s what McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said:



Based on the thousands of angry comments left on Steve’s Facebook post, I can say with some confidence that I was not the only one taken aback by McDonald’s unnecessarily stiff response.

In fact, I am trying to wrap my head around McDonald’s PR Team’s thought process on this one (especially when they so recently came out with a new “dedication to social purpose”). I narrowed it down to three possible reasons:

  • Not in the budget
  • Goes against their social/moral values
  • Hates fun/charity/peace

We know it wasn’t the second point (as previously stated), and I think we can all agree that the first point is unlikely (the company is worth 92.5 billion dollars, folks). Which leads us to deduce that they simply weren’t willing to consider the offer—probably because they hate fun, charity, and/or peace.

I say that last piece a bit as a joke, but in all actuality there are so many reasons why McDonald’s “no” was such a massive PR fail. In fact, they did the absolute opposite of what Burger King did.

  1. It was negative

To be brief, they said no. You can’t get much more negative than that. But they also took a fun campaign and reminded everyone that there are worse things in the world—like war. Talk about a Debbie Downer.

  1. It was boring and frankly kind of rude

Literally not one exclamation point in their response. No happiness or friendliness. Add that to snotty comments like “A simple phone call will do next time.” They sound like lame, whiny babies that are embarrassed about being called out.

  1. It was hasty

McDonald’s responded almost immediately, as if they didn’t even give it a second thought. To me, that seems like a bold move—to decide against something so big without waiting to see how your audience responded. If they would have waited just a few more hours, they might have seen that Burger King and McDonald’s customers alike were excited about the opportunity. They might have at least taken the time to write a better response.

In my opinion, McDonald’s should have taken this opportunity and accepted BK’s olive branch. They would have reaped excellent PR, generated funds for a worthwhile cause and not appeared so snarky and out of touch.

If there is a silver lining it is that this McWhopperProposal can teach us all a lesson in how to plan a successful campaign (and how not to respond when a partnership is presented publicly).

Now, I’m off to BK and McyD’s to make my own McWhopper!