Did we dodge a bullet with that Burger King ad fiasco?

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Last week, we heard about an ad from Burger King that was a bit misguided. You can read all the gory details here, but basically Burger King decided to run an ad that would trigger Google Home and have it read the first line of the Whopper’s Wikipedia page. Unfortunately, Wikipedians didn’t take too well to that idea and before long, the user-updated Wikipedia page got user-updated to a message that left Burger King less than thrilled with the results.

Misguided and poorly executed

The Pocketnow Weekly last week, labelled this attempt as misguided and poorly executed, and while I can agree with the second sentiment, I whole heartedly disagree with the first. Or at least I did at first. Allow me to explain. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Assistants, and more importantly, I’m a fan of Home devices. “Home devices” is not their official category because society hasn’t come up with a word for them yet, but I’m referring to the Google Home, Amazon Echo, and the ecosystem of products that are coming out in that genre.

I love the fact that Burger King decided to make a campaign out of my idea. What idea you ask? This one:

Keep in control

What Burger King did not do, however is control the output of the device. In my example, I suggested Amazon develop a custom trigger to deliver a very specific message to Echo owners. What Burger King did was try to skirt the system and deliver their own message, not realizing that the Internet is both the smartest, and meanest “person” on the planet.

You see, had Burger King approached Google and said, “We’d like to do this…”, it’s very possible Google may have been able to control that output. Heck, Google, being the advertising maven that it is, may have created a whole new industry out of the concept. Google and Amazon have the power to control the output of their devices, as evidenced by the Beauty and the Beast fiasco from a few weeks ago (as reported by the Verge). It’s possible Burger King could have been Google’s guest in a successful ad campaign.

So, while I will defend Burger King’s idea until my dying breath, I have to agree with my fellows on the Weekly, that the execution was exceptionally poor. It may very well have triggered the death of this type of ad before it had really started. I wonder if that might be a good thing or not. I welcome your input on this.

That was close

We love our assistants and “Home devices” because they’re always on, always listening, and always ready to serve. But if a company tries to exploit that, like Disney or Burger King, doesn’t that sour the experience on the whole? One bad apple and all that? If we rely on our devices to be there for us, how can we rely on them if some day, every commercial is Tru-Green saying “Hey Google, tell us about Tru-Geeen’s services,” Followed by Little Caesars saying “Hey Google, Pizza Pizza” followed by…you get the idea.

I admit, the more I write here, the more my tweet from last December seems extremely short sighted. While an ad once a year, during the SuperBowl may not be so bad, I shudder to think of this concept actually catching on. It would be especially sucky for those folks who don’t even have a Home device and all they’re seeing is some jerk on TV talking to a device they don’t have about a product they might want, but now can’t find anything about.

Successful failure

Burger King tried to be exceptionally clever – and one of the first, which is pretty cool. But it had the potential to backfire and it did in a big way. But it also had the potential to backfire by being a resounding success, and starting an industry that causes all of us to hate the devices we love today.

So what do you think – not about the Burger King commercial – that was an epic fail, no two ways about it. But what about the idea of advertising through the TV into your Home device? Did you think it was a clever way to maximize the value of a 15 second ad? Or do you think that advertisers should not go there? Further, do you think that Amazon and Google should go the distance to protect their assets by shutting down future attempts. This could be an interesting conversation so I look forward to reading your comments below.

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About The Author
Adam Doud

Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!