[UPDATE: Burger King CMO Fernando Machado discusses the "Moldy Whopper" campaign with Muse here. See our original story below.]
It's entered into folklore that McDonald's hamburgers don't decompose. Last year, a man in Iceland even created a museum-style exhibit showing an uneaten 10-year-old burger and fries from the Golden Arches that didn't look worse for wear, a full decade after purchase. Notably, there was no mold on the food whatsoever.
With that quirky bit of cultural background, check out the new Burger King campaign. New global ads devised by Ingo in Sweden show a Whopper, a month after being made, gloriously festooned by a veritable forest of mold—of which BK is extremely proud, as the campaign emphasizes the chain's move away from artificial preservatives that would have kept the mold at bay. (David Miami and Publicis are also credited on the campaign.)
Below is a video showing a time lapse of the Whopper being overcome by the hairy fungus. Gross? Perhaps. But it's shot in an undeniably eye-catching way, and BK says it shows "mold can be a beautiful thing."
BK has already removed artificial preservatives from the Whopper in most European countries and has done the same in more than 400 restaurants in the U.S. (The project will reach all BK restaurants by the end of the year.) In the U.S., more than 90 percent of all food ingredients at BK are free from colors, flavors, and preservatives from artificial sources. The brand has also removed MSG and high-fructose corn syrup from all food items.
The shoot was technically challenging, as no one on the creative team had any real experience growing mold.
"We are very proud of crafting this idea," says Björn Ståhl, executive creative director at Ingo. "Mold grows in a very inconsistent way. We had to work for several months, with different samples, to be able to showcase the beauty of something which is usually considered undesirable. I never thought I would become a specialist in mold, but that was required to make this one happen."
The print ads are truly remarkable. Click the thumbnails below to enlarge.
The campaign will surely be polarizing—it's a shocking move, to say the least, for a food company to show its products rotting. On the other hand, it fits Burger King global CMO Fernando Machado's marketing playbook perfectly. It takes a big risk, and will absolutely get noticed. It's also perfect for the modern social-media age, where transparency, honestly and authenticity from corporations is valued like never before. This campaign represents that concept taken to a playful extreme. Though disgusting, it will still put a smile on many people's faces—which is quite the feat.
It also continues BK's tradition of not shying away from featuring unexpected, even shocking imagery in its advertising. Another notable example was "Burning Stores," the print campaign from 2017 that showed actual BK restaurants on fire, with the line, "Flame grilled since 1954."
"At Burger King we believe that real food tastes better. That's why we are working hard to remove preservatives, colors and flavors from artificial sources from the food we serve in all countries around the world," adds Machado.
Executive Creative Director: Björn Ståhl
Art Director: Max Hultberg
Copywriter: Magnus Ivansson
Planner: Simon Stefansson
Account Director: Rickard Allstrin
Account Manager: Mia Melani
Final Art: Åsa Eklund, Alexander Lundvall
Tech Director: Stefan Kindgren
AGENCY: DAVID Miami
Global CCO & Partner: Pancho Cassis
Group Creative Directors: Fernando Pellizzaro, Jean Zamprogno
Senior Art Director: Camilo Jimenez
Art Director: Sergio Takahata
Group Account Director: Stefane Rosa
Executive Producer: Carlos Torres
GLOBAL CCO: Bruno Bertelli
CCO: Eduardo Marques, Jorg Riommi
ECD: Pablo Dachefsky
Art Director: Ivan Montebello
Copywriter: Pablo Murube
CLIENT: Burger King
Photographer: Pål Allan
Food stylist: Anna Lindblad
Photo assistant: Erik Ögnelooh
DOP: Viktor Kumlin
Graffer: Kalle Dahlberg
COLONY (Production company)
Art buyer / Producer: Jenny Steggo
Producer and director: Markus Ahlm
Producer: Lena von der Burg
Online: Erik Lindahl / Colony
Sound: Quint Starkie
Grade: Jean-Claude Soret, MPC London
"What A Difference A Day Makes" by Aretha Franklin
MOKOH Music Berlin
Music Supervisor & Intro Composer: Maria Moritz, Stephan Moritz
Danny Simon – Music, Director
Ryan Schinman – Co-Founder