Where's the Beef? Comparative advertising at its best

The Wendy’s slogan was an immediate hit. It became part of mainstream pop culture, repeated on TV, in magazines, all over merchandise and even being referred to in the 1984 presidential election against Gary Hart’s substance-less policies.

 It’s safe to say this was an iconic point of the Burger Wars. The Burger Wars is a series of back and forth comparative advertising campaigns between competing fast food chains McDonalds, Burger King and other American chains. Wendy’s was watching the war unfold and struggling to differentiate. The slogan, paired with a comically tiny beef patty mocked the competition and changed the game. However, the main competiton for market share is between powerhouse McDonald's and it's main competitor, Burger King. 

The tussle started in the 80s and still stands today. Burger King has, arguably, been more relentless with continual digs and one-upsmanship, going after the number one spot in the market.



In 2015, in the spirit of Peace Day, Burger King played a particularly clever card by proposing a store collaboration to McDonalds. This included an elaborate product, uniform, packaging and slogan which would be launched "in the name of peace". McDonald’s declined the offer but Burger King had won anyway.

If McDonalds had accepted the collab then the two companies would have been viewed as equals, a great win for Burger King whose market share was far lower at this point. Even though the offer was rejected, Burger King looked like the “bigger man” for putting pettiness aside and reaching out for Peace Day. This was a great campaign that was win-win for BK and earnt them the Grand Effie award at the 2017 North American Effie Awards.

A year after this, McDonald’s France launch an advert that shows a road sign with directions to McDonalds and another to Burger King. The sign for Mcdonalds is just 5km away, whereas the Burger King Directions are 258km away with a long sign full of complicated directions.


The ad was meant to highlight the convenience and scope of McDonald’s but had the opposite effect when Burger King replied with their “end to the story”. You can see the Mcdonald's ad and Burger King's reply in the video below. 


As you can see, the advert reply doesn’t dispute that the chain is further, but trumps McDonalds with an ad that shows a couple stopping off for a coffee at McDonalds to fuel their long drive to Burger King, because it’s worth driving the distance for.  

Last year saw another dig from Burger King as it took advantage of the release of Stephen King’s “IT” remake. In Germany, the film broke records, earning $11.6 million in the first week of its release so Burger King saw the popularity and pulled a little stunt as the film ended. The simple message, “The moral is… never trust a clown.” Followed by BK logo provides viewers with some comic relief after the tension of a horror film while at the same time breeding contempt for the Maccies Mascot.

Ralf Heuel, Chief Creative Officer of Grabarz & Partner, the agency behind this stunt, “It shows that smart ideas are more important than ever in making brands a talking point all over the world.” This idea took minimal spend and effort and gave maximum reward.

But is there dignity in not slamming your competitors? Is there integrity in talking about your benefits rather than someone else’s pitfalls?

For now, McDonald’s are still leaps and bounds ahead in terms of market share and revenue but they were warned after the “IT” campaign that packed a punch, there’s “more where that came from” from the Burger King corner.   


This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn:

Topics: News, Brand, advertising


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