Last December, Burger King generated some positive PR chatter when it signed an EU undertaking to end fast-food advertising aimed at the under-12s. Well, that hasn’t lasted. I have just noticed that the food behemoth is preparing to launch a global campaign for kids next month with a toy promotion featuring characters from The Simpsons. The incentive offers a free toy with every Kids Meal.
Tactically, they have softened the idea by proclaiming that the toys can be played with individually and “are not dependent on the collection of a set”. No feverish collection frenzy, eh? They know full well that most children, when presented with the possibility of a set, will attempt to complete it. From football stickers to Star Wars figures, Hot Wheels to Pokemon, not forgetting the Beanie Babies – this has been proven time and again in the last few decades.
Earlier this year, Burger King also ran a toy promotion based around Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants. However, since then the channel itself has created an “anti-fast-food charter” prohibiting the use of its characters in promotions for products that are high in fat, salt and sugar.
Now some slick, corporate PR has managed to come up with a clever, well-spun, disingenuous little sidestep to keep the chain from being sucked into the PR black hole that going back on their word would represent. A spokesman for Burger King has been given the following handcrafted sound bite (it is as jaw-droppingly beautiful and priceless a lump of spin as I have seen in a long time): “There is no mention of kids’ toys in our EU pledge so we have not gone back on any commitment.”
Burger King is one of last fast-food brands standing which offers toys to children. Both Pizza Hut and KFC stopped the practice a number of years ago. Burger King’s principal competitor, McDonald’s, now offers toys with its kids’ Happy Meals, but these promotions have been revamped to be more educational in outlook.
In this economic downturn, I am sure that other pledges might be dropped in an attempt to lure the core market back into food outlets.
Let’s see if the PR guardians can keep the brand bean counters in line.