Posted by : Du-Ann Daniel Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Advances in technology have created new opportunities in advertising. With advances in augmented and virtual reality or highly targeted digital ads, the possibilities for coming up with creative ads has grown exponentially.

Last week in their home territory of the USA, Burger King launched their latest (and most short-lived) ad campaign. With just 7 simple words, Burger King has divided the advertising community. The ad features a Burger King employee saying “OK, Google: what is the Whopper burger?” which in turn activated the voice-control feature on phones running the Android OS and caused phones to read aloud the first line from the Wikipedia page for the burger.

Was it advantageous or annoying?

This is one of the questions that has divided the advertising community. On the one hand I would commend Burger King for taking advantage of a simple piece of technology that’s widely available in an unexpected way. On the other hand I would condemn the company for breaching my privacy and taking control of my phone.

Could it be considered unethical?

Google voice search is a pretty nifty piece of technology. It’s just one component of Google’s growing collection of voice control features and devices, which includes Google Home - a home assistant that can provide information, handle your schedule, or do things like change songs on your music playlist. Ironically, the ads for Google Home caused some user’s devices to activate.

One user commented online that the ad was tantamount to hacking as it took control of their personal device in order to convey a marketing message.

Wikipedia was also not pleased with Burger King and demanded a formal apology. Wikipedia is famously ad-free, so it’s understandable that they would be unhappy that their platform was used for the purposes of advertising.

And, as we all know, Wikipedia can be edited by anybody. However, Burger King didn’t anticipate this. Though the ad only lasted about 3 hours before Google shut it down and disavowed the phrase from activating its software, users were quick to jump on Wikipedia and start adding their own ingredients to the Whopper page. Some of these included “rat”, “toenail clippings” and “causes cancer”. These have now also been removed.

Burger King’s campaign was short-lived, but it definitely had an impact. Whether it was clever or conniving - the jury is still out.

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