Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cultural Arrogance or Brilliant Marketing?

It's been out for one day and already there is a lot of uproar over Burger King's new "Whopper Virgin" campaign.

The premise is simple. Take Whoppers to people who've never had them (farmers in Transylvania, the Inuit in Greenland, the Hmong tribe of Southeast Asia) and see how they like them.

The uproar generally has to do with how dare Burger King take these weapons of mass consumption and unleash them on unsuspecting locals, or how culturally arrogant Burger King is for making a commercial with an overarching theme that the poor indigenous folks don't know what they're missing or even questioning Burger King's journalistic integrity by pointing out that it's not really a documentary.


Frankly I've never cared about Big Food's existence or their marketing (so long as it doesn't exploit children) as we live in a free-market society, and really I'm not worried that the Hmong tribe is suddenly going to start planting Burger King franchises, or that they were culturally offended by the cinematographers who after sharing Whoppers with them also shared their traditional meals, nor do I care that at the end of the day it's a commercial and not a documentary. I wasn't even offended by the clearly staged ceremonial dress which I imagine was meant to convey that we're dealing with modern day savages because my bet is that the locals were paid well to wear cloths that they themselves are likely culturally proud of and really it's our own issues of perception that are being exploited and at the end of the day isn't that what commercials are designed to do


Even with my flea-like attention span I managed to watch the whole thing - and enjoy it.

And for the record, I prefer Big Macs.