Positive Cynicism – The new Burger King
Aaron R. Davis
A room with three advertising executives, an undetermined amount of time ago …
EXEC 1: Gentlemen, we’re here to discuss a little problem: it seems that the ad campaign we’ve been running for Burger King for the last near-decade has alienated women.
EXEC 2: What?! How did we not know this!
EXEC 1: Yeah, apparently women haven’t been responding well to the creepy Burger King character.
EXEC 3: But what about those Seth MacFarlane cartoons we paid so much for? Everyone likes online virals!
EXEC 1: I thought so too, but apparently there were a lot of women that just felt put off by short cartoons featuring inappropriate violence, racism against Asians and a stream of references to once having seen TV and movies in the 1980s.
EXEC 3: What about the one where Mario rescued Princess Peach and heavily implied that she owed him sex for rescuing her? The one that stopped just short of Mario outright sexually assaulting her?
EXEC 1: Yeah, turns out that was some kind of “trigger” or something. Women don’t like rape jokes and misogyny.
EXEC 2: But what else does Seth MacFarlane even do?! We were hemmed in on that one, come on!
EXEC 1: I know, I know.
EXEC 3: Did we ever actually clear the use of copyrighted characters with legal, by the way?
EXEC 1: Let’s move on.
EXEC 2: What about the great, classic commercial we did where we had a bunch of guy’s guys go crazy and sing about how they hated chick food? Chicks didn’t like that?
EXEC 1: No, apparently many people were offended that we would appropriate a classic anthem of the potential of feminine power and turn it into a song about a bunch of idiots growling about their unsophisticated palettes as though it had something to do with personal freedom. They kept saying it was sexism, or something.
EXEC 2: Hello! It’s parody, people!
EXEC 1: I know, I know, but the fact remains: those guys we were catering to are grown up now. Why, the immature, terrified, overgrown frat boy losers holding their dicks and cowering in the night that being civilized somehow hurts their masculinity that we started catering to exclusively five years ago must be in their late forties by now! Childhood is over, gentlemen. I mean, have you seen the box office returns on the last couple of Adam Sandler flicks? Talk about a downhill slide.
EXEC 3: But what about men’s rights?
EXEC 1: No, let’s not talk about that, apparently that term only makes the person who uses it defensively a whiny crybaby.
EXEC 3: Um … you mean look like a whiny crybaby.
EXEC 1: … Yeah.
EXEC 2: So we have to cater to women in our advertising now?
EXEC 1: Not straight at women, but we have to make our ads more …
EXEC 3: Chick-friendly?
EXEC 1: Yeah, chick-friendly.
EXEC 3: So what do we know about women?
45 minutes of silence follow.
EXEC 1: What can we find out from the Internet?
EXEC 2: According to this, women are apparently 51 percent of the population.
EXEC 3: Are you serious?
EXEC 1: How did we not know that?!
EXEC 2: That’s crazy!
EXEC 3: Wait, so that’s just over half of the population who feels alienated by our advertising?
EXEC 1: No, apparently it’s much worse than that. We pretty much only cornered the market on the guys that read Maxim.
EXEC 2: People still read Maxim?
EXEC 1: Yes! Well … kids too afraid to steal porn and college guys who think it’s a rowdier version of Details do.
EXEC 3: People still read Details?
EXEC 1: Guys who find GQ and Esquire too hard to follow, from what I understand …
EXEC 3: But Burger King still has it on taste, right? I mean, we have the best French fries in the country!
EXEC 1: Exactly! If you go purely by the results of blind taste tests and not by sales, we have the best French fries in the country! So let’s build on that, gentlemen! What else can we tell the women of America about Burger King? What else do they like to see in advertising for a restaurant?
EXEC 2: Like, a real restaurant or Burger King?
EXEC 1: Burger King.
EXEC 3: Well, we should emphasize cleanliness, I think. I mean, have you ever even been inside a Burger King?
EXEC 1: Good God, no.
EXEC 3: They’re depressingly awful. So many high booth walls and they’re always so gray and… sticky. You walk in and expect to find nothing but homeless people and crackheads and hair. So we should encourage them to be cleaner, friendlier, more open space. Let’s do what the McDonald’s people do and pretend our food is somehow clean, fresh, wholesome and trendy instead of just what you grab when you have five bucks and a limited amount of time for lunch.
EXEC 1: Good, I like this thinking. I think we should also populate the ads with mostly girls and non-threatening males.
EXEC 2: What, like doughy guys? We had doughy guys on the “I Am Woman” commercial.
EXEC 1: But if we shave them and give them a bald spot, they’re friendly and non-threatening instead of aggressive and unfocused. Now, maybe we can trump McDonald’s entirely and get some kind of celebrity to really sell it.
EXEC 2: What celebrity do women like?
EXEC 3: Brad Pitt?
EXEC 1: If we had that kind of money we wouldn’t have pushed Seth MacFarlane cartoons. And even those would have had some visual dynamism instead of two people standing in one spot and awkwardly mumbling at each other like a Clutch Cargo cartoon.
EXEC 2: Guys, I’ve got it: David Beckham.
EXEC 1: David Beckham?
EXEC 3: He’s right, women love him.
EXEC 1: In 2003, maybe.
EXEC 3: But he’s within our budget.
EXEC 1: Is he going to take his shirt off? Because taking his shirt off around the burgers isn’t really sexy.
EXEC 3: No, we just imply that he might someday.
EXEC 1: I get it, I get it. But it seems like we could just get someone equally British but more universally famous. What about Sting?
EXEC 2: Rainforest, fast food…
EXEC 1: Right, right. David Beckham it is! Okay, now we’ll tell the women of America that Burger King is no longer going to trade on sexism and gender stereotypes. And we’ll tell them with a hot guy!
The executives pat each other on the back and do whatever it is business people do when they feel like celebrating. Circle jerk? I have no idea.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at email@example.com