Burger King/ Scary Clown Night/ LOLA Mullen Lowe
‘This Halloween come as a clown to eat like a king,” invited Burger King as it launched its #ScaryClownNight campaign.
The invite referred to an offer at the burger chain’s Leicester Square restaurant in London, which saw it doll out free Whoppers to the first 500 customers dressed as clowns on the Saturday before Halloween, between 7pm and 3am.
The stunt coincided with the emergence of Stephen King’s clown-based horror and research that shows that clowns are the third most requested Halloween outfit this year.
Because it is such a limited offer, the campaign is more clearly intended to take a playful swipe at its main competitor, McDonalds, and its clown mascot: the irrepressible Ronald McDonald.
The accompanying ‘Very scary’ spot comes from filmmaker Rodrigo Cortés and was developed by Lola MullenLowe in Madrid.
Set to a synth track which sounds like a cross between the theme from the film Halloween and Netflix cult TV series ‘Stranger Things’, the spot features a boy cycling on Chopper through a suburban neighborhood at night. He realises that he’s being followed by an adult sized clown who looks exactly like Ronald McDonald, on a kid’s bike.
A chase ensues but the closer the lad gets to his local Burger King, the more he realises that there is now a whole hoard of clowns of all different types following him.
As the lights flicker on and off inside the restaurant, the ‘McDonalds’ clown growls in a sinister voice: ‘I want my Whopper’, followed by the strapline ‘Come as a clown, eat like a king’, followed by details of the offer.
The spot is executed with humor and aplomb, making a virtue out of dissing the competition, something that is often seen as a cheap stunt in advertising.
Comparative advertising used to be purely the domain of US cable TV channels. But, in the 1980s, the cola wars proved that knocking the competition could work for bigger brands if executed with an original enough idea.
The Pepsi challenge, for example, showed ordinary members choosing Pepsi over Coca-Cola in blind taste tests. Ryanair has also had a long history of knocking the competition, but it was great to see Lufthansa take a swipe back when the Irish airline recently had to cancel a series of flights due to pilot shortages.
Burger King has taken several digs at McDonalds over the years, and most recently at Halloween. Last year the chain dressed up one of its New York outlets as ‘The Ghost of McDonalds’, a stunt that picked up plenty of traction in the press and on social media.
And this year’s stunt appears to have done similar, piquing the interest of the media, with The Sun reporting Burger King’s ‘Burger and Frights’ offer and warning that the stunt might lead to a new clown epidemic – a reference to last autumn’s flash craze of slightly unhinged people dressing up as clowns and inappropriately scaring passers-by.
While the campaign might not reignite this thankfully short-lived clown trend, it may inspire one in established brands seeking new and original spins on dissing the competition.