For International Peace Day, Burger King made an unprecedented peace proposal to McDonald’s – to join forces and create the McWhopper.
South Africa (21 September 2015) – The Burger Wars won’t put down their weapons to create a McWhopper but have in the process helped promote International Peace Day,
“For one brief shining moment, we were so close to a cease-fire in the burger wars.”
The beef between McDonald’s & Burger King over which product will win the hearts & widen the hips of the world has dragged on since the 1970s. But on Wednesday morning, Burger King extended a skilfully crafted olive branch to its archival: a proposal to create a joint pop-up store & sandwich in honour of International Peace Day, which is on the 21st of September.
Burger King is tying the publicity stunt to a nonprofit called Peace One Day, which says it promotes International Peace Day. The United Nations created the International Day of Peace in 1981 to coincide with its annual opening session in September. It then designated Sept. 21 as the annual “day of non-violence and cease-fire” in 2001.
Burger King touted the idea in full-page ads in the New York Times, social media, and a taste test on the TODAY show.
The response from McDonald’s was nope, not today Burger King. Now thousands of people are taking to social media to rake Mickey D’s over the coals for not teaming up with its burger enemy to support a global day of nonviolence.
Burger King announced its desire to suspend hostilities through a full-page ad in Tuesday’s newspapers, a full-scale social media blitz, & a website inviting McDonald’s—& everyone else—to consider the idea of a McWhopper. The hybrid burger, which might have featured the Whopper’s flame-broiled beef patty and the special sauce and sesame seed bun from a McDonald’s Big Mac, would only have been sold on International Peace Day.
“Burger King genuinely wants to unite with McDonald’s on September 21, 2015, to prepare & serve the McWhopper and get the world talking about Peace Day,” reads the website.
Indeed, the website, along with specially crafted videos produced by Burger King, explains that Peace Day is spearheaded by Peace One Day, an organisation launched in 1999 by actor and filmmaker Jeremy Gilley.
Thanks to the nonprofit’s efforts, in 2001 the United Nations designated Sept. 21 as an International Day of Peace. Burger King’s proposal suggests that all proceeds from sales of the McWhopper be donated to Peace One Day.
In a brief Facebook post (which has now been deleted), McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook shot down the McWhopper idea & seemed to take BK to task for equating the battle for burger supremacy with the pain & suffering of global conflict.
“We love the intention but think our two brands could do something bigger to make a difference. We commit to raise awareness worldwide, perhaps you’ll join us in a meaningful global effort? And every day, let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequaled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war.”
“P.S. A simple phone call will do next time,” Easterbrook added at the end of the note. Ouch.
More than 2,500 commenters on Easterbrook’s post vented their disappointment in the “passive-aggressive” tone of the response and in McDonald’s unwillingness to participate in the McWhopper stunt.
“Everyone was excited about this for the short time that we all thought it was a possibility,” commented Facebook user Andrew Javier Bernal.
“McDonald’s has been struggling with customers for the past few years. Young people such as myself are realizing how old and tired their food is, not to mention that it’s terrible for you. I don’t eat fast-food often but this was a cool chance to get some buzz going for both companies (even if it was Burger King’s idea) and instead McDonald’s wants to be a buzzkill and instead try to be all righteous with some phantom plan to raise global awareness,” wrote Bernal. His comment has been liked by more than 1,400 other people.
Indeed, as young people ditch McDonald’s in droves, and consumers overall shift to healthier fast-casual eateries such as Chipotle, sales under the Golden Arches have slumped. The downturn has been so significant that in May the company announced that it would no longer share monthly sales reports with the public.
The need for McDonald’s to change its reputation is a theme that has come up in plenty of comments on Easterbrook’s Facebook post. One popular response was written by Facebook commenter Mike Vitiello, who wrote the reply to Burger King he believes Easterbrook should have posted.
“You’ve offered us a golden opportunity to look like halfway decent humans by doing something people will love, but we think our two brands could do something bigger to make a difference. It just can’t be your idea, and we don’t have any of our own at the moment,” wrote Vitiello.
“And every day, let’s publicly acknowledge that we are giant global corporations that exist purely to maximize shareholder profit, and are certainly too old and stodgy to actually bother trying to have any fun, especially for a good cause,” Vitiello continued.
Sure, many commenters are noting that Burger King McWhopper proposal is marketing genius—while McDonald’s may seem lame for saying no, saying yes would be admitting that Burger King’s product is on par with the Big Mac.
But several folks are sharing that they’d never heard of International Peace Day before Burger King’s media blitz… and we’re guessing that’s the good thing here, the fact that an item-old burger war won’t put down their weapons but are still promoting International Peace Day.
Update: McDonald’s said no to the McWhopper, but the internet said yes!
The McWhopper was hatched by a small Kiwi ad agency called Y&R New Zealand. Burger King wasn’t even the campaign’s client, at least not initially. Its purpose was to raise awareness for International Peace Day. The motivating idea was to get rival companies to join forces, whoever they might be. The New Zealand agency imagined a single tech-giant website called “Yahoogle” or that maybe people would have a chance to try a “can of Copsi”.
While Atlanta never got a taste of the official McWhopper, the ad campaign by any other measure was a huge success. A video by the Commercial Communications Council of New Zealand said the campaign generated $220 million in free publicity and raised awareness of Peace Day by 40 percent. The Commercial Communications Council also gave the McWhopper campaign four of its Axis awards at a ceremony in 2016.
The campaign was so successful that an unknown number of McWhoppers were created at home or built from Whoppers and Big Macs purchased separately. People who really wanted to satisfy their McWhopper curiosity could and did. And of course, they posted videos of their McWhopper experiences online, just as the ad campaign’s creators had intended.
“McDonald’s said no, but the internet said yes,” Y&R’s Paine said.