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The appeal of a moldy Whopper: Learning from an effective ad campaign

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Category Culture

What happens to a Burger King Whopper when you let it decompose? An ad campaign that is making headlines.

On Wednesday, the fast-food chain unveiled ads featuring the transformation of its signature sandwich over a month. The crisp lettuce wilts as the bread collapses. The flame-broiled middle turns from brown to white. Fuzz then takes over the sandwich, engulfing the pickles and tomatoes. The bread turns a greenish-gray and then blue.

Why would Burger King make such an ad?

To show what happens when a hamburger doesn’t use artificial ingredients, colors, or flavors.

The marketing officer behind the campaign explains: “I think it works so well because it’s like you’re showing something that in theory should be negative. But you’re showing it in a really beautiful way.”

The ad campaign works for at least three reasons.

One: It makes the point it intends to make. We’ve all seen ads that were entertaining but left us confused as to their message. Or ads that were interesting but didn’t point to the product or company they were supposed to be selling.

Two: It strikes a chord with our culture. There’s an intense interest today in eating organic, protecting the environment, and generally getting “back to nature.” Burger King showed us empirically that their hamburger is made only of natural, thus compostable, materials. In a different era, this message would be less interesting, but it resonates today.

Three: It is sparking interest on other platforms. I saw the ad not on television but in Forbes. When other media make your ad their story, you’re using their influence to advance your own.

Learning from an effective ad campaign

Let’s apply these three principles to our Great Commission mandate to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

One: It is vital that our witness point to the One for whom we are a witness. John the Baptist’s mantra should be ours: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Our message needs to be clear, compelling, and Christ-centered.

Two: We should connect with our changing culture as we share the changeless gospel. Jesus used birds and lilies to make spiritual points because he was speaking in an area where they were visible (Matthew 6:26, 28). Paul quoted the Hebrew Bible when speaking to Jews and Greek philosophers when speaking to Greek philosophers. Effective ministry begins by meeting felt needs, thus earning the right to meet spiritual needs.

Three: To build the spiritual movement we need, it is vital that we encourage and equip other Christians to use their influence for the gospel as well. Jesus spent three years with twelve men so they would then share the message with others who would reach others. Such multiplication is a “force multiplier” for the kingdom. Paul’s strategy should be ours: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

While Burger King draws our attention to a moldy hamburger, we can use our influence to promote the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

Who will you lead to him today?

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