How Burger King Mastered PR Newsjacking

February 2, 2018 David Moore

If you’ve paid much attention to the news lately, you are likely aware that the FCC recently struck down Obama-era rules, known as Net Neutrality, which prevented internet services providers from giving preference to one type of content, or one source of content over another. Many people, especially tech-savvy millennials who consume a lot of streaming content, are upset over the change. They fear that ISPs will charge extra for the download speeds required to enjoy their favorite sites like Netflix and Amazon. It’s a hot button, technically complex issue that has nothing whatsoever to do with hamburgers.
 

A Whopper of an Advertisement

That’s why I was initially surprised to see a social media post with a video from Burger King called Whopper Neutrality. The spot uses an apt metaphor to demonstrate the “fast lane, slow lane” concepts at the heart of the debate over the demise of net neutrality. They apply the idea by making the speed at which orders for the Whopper are delivered dependent on the price. A burger right now will cost you $25.99, or you can wait a while for a Whopper at $4.99. As you can imagine, customers are confused and agitated. 

 

 

While not exactly a technically correct analogy for what experts expect to happen without net neutrality in place, the ad does an excellent job of explaining a tricky concept in a fun way. But why? What does Burger King care if you have to pay more to watch Hulu?
 

Burger King is deploying (brilliantly as you’ll see) a PR tactic called newsjacking. They’ve picked something that people are already talking about and skillfully used it to increase mentions and social shares related to their brand. And they’ve done it before.
 

A Google Home Hack and an Anti-Bullying Campaign

Last April, Burger King released an ad that contained the phrase, “OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger?” Any Google Home device within earshot, upon hearing the prompt, told listeners about the fast-food chain’s burger. The ad took advantage of the growing use of home assistants and opened more than a few eyes to the potential for them to be manipulated. 

 

 

Then in October, in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, the brand produced a PSA about bullying. The social experiment tested whether people would react more to a high school Jr. being bullied in the restaurant or Whopper Jr. sandwiches being bullied (smashed). You might guess at the results, but the ad is worth watching if you haven’t seen it, but you may very well have because it quickly caught fire on social media.

 

 

The Results

Between January 24th and today, there have already been 2,562 articles that mention both Burger King and net neutrality. People who likely had no other reason to write about Burger King are writing about Burger King. (Present company included.) It already has almost as much share of voice as the Google Home stunt. What’s more, mentions of the Google Home and the anti-bullying ads increased since the net neutrality video came out, extending the life of those campaigns and increasing their value. 

 

 

Burger King was genius to include Whopper in the title of the video, 654 headlines included both Burger King and Whopper, and another 398 had Whopper.
 

By far the best social channel for the spot was Facebook, with more than 147,000 shares as of this writing. I just checked, and the YouTube video has had 3.9 million views.

 

 

Benefits of Newsjacking

Having a video go viral is great, but what are the concrete benefits for the brand? It matters in terms of:
 

SEO – In this case, many of the mentions were in high-value publications for SEO.

 

 

Audience Engagement and Sentiment – Remember when we mentioned that high-tech millennials were particularly concerned about net neutrality rules? Guess who also eats Whoppers? Now they know that Burger King has their back.
 

Reach – When you look at the aggregate readership of sites that covered the ad, you find that there was potential exposure to 8 and a half billion (billion with a b) readers. Could Burger King buy that sort of reach? Sure, but why if you don’t have to?

 

 

So, to the Burger King PR team, we say, “Bravo!” To everyone else, we say, be like Burger King. Look for your opportunity to put the news to work for your brand.

 

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About the Author

David Moore

Integrated Communications & Digital Marketing Strategist

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