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  • Alistair Ross

Irreverent, before Burger King were irreverent.



Over the past four years, Burger King has grown a formidable reputation for creativity. It has translated its irreverent personality into 94 Cannes Lions, including four Grand Prixs and the honour of 2017 creative marketer of the year for global CMO, Fernando Machado. Mouldy Whopper, McWhopper, Google - Home of the Whopper & Whopper Detour - just a few of the Effie winning campaigns. Burger King understand that creativity makes marketing more effective whatever you're selling. (Whether they're better long-term marketers than McDonalds is another debate). But back in 1999 Burger King marketing, in the UK at least, was more likely to be troubling criminal juries than advertising ones. A lacklustre prescriptive tv ad formula of animated type, mixed with flying food ingredients and D-list music tracks, or the occasional night shoot at a BK in Bracknell if you were lucky. It was the offer-driven monthly TV brief that nobody in the illustrious creative department at Lowe wanted. To make matters worse, Leo Burnett London were consistently smashing it out of the park for McDonalds, with nicely observed wholesome stories.

When the inevitable brief came our way I was determined to write something different. It might not make it past the Creative Director. It mIght not be bought by the client. But as a creative I believe that what sets us apart is our incessant need to keep challenging the status quo. When our Creative Director read through the script he laughed out loud. "That's funny. The client will never go for it. The BACC probably won't approve it...and I really doubt you can afford to make it on the budget anyway. But, nice try, " he said. In my mind that wasn't an outright 'No'. The script had passed the hardest test - he laughed. Everything else wasn't insurmountable I thought, in the naivety of creative youth. It turned out the client was leaving. He said that if the BACC passed the script, he'd approve it. But he still didn't understand how we could make it for the budget. So, we rewrote the script for the BACC, explaining what you'd see and hear, not what you might think. They approved it. Now we could contemplate getting it made. "Never going to happen," said the Head of TV, "You've got stuntmen, divers, two fishing boats...that's before we get onto the matter of the shark. Is there a back-up restaurant script set in Bracknell?" Again, not a definitive 'No' I thought. And three weeks later, thanks to the magic of agency producer James Stoker, director Alex Turner, and producer Marcus Gondolo-Gordon of Godman Films, we found ourselves afloat off the coast of Fuengirola shooting the script.

It's a film that would never happen in 2020. There would be too much to criticise (and I don't just mean the retrospective choice of Stuart Hall as voiceover, 15 years before his court convictions - he was right for this film, at the time). For today's audiences the humour is probably too black. Fortunately in 1999 the outrage train didn't have social media to fuel it, so we took more creative risks. The fact is though, the film still makes me laugh, because it's irreverent, but tongue in cheek; a lateral take on a literal brief. An approach I call LogicLogicMagic, blending the literal with the lateral to create the memorable. Back in 1999 the buying public were still considered our most important audience. We understood that if you were going to interrupt their viewing for 30 seconds, you'd better be entertaining. In my mind, nothing has changed. Our little film doesn't compare to the newer Burger King work - it's simply an old fashioned tactical television ad - but one that shares the same desire to use relevant irreverence to be memorable. Nowadays I'm in the business of helping unicorn technology brands drive awareness and sell their services globally. In one sense it couldn't be further from encouraging the impulse purchase of a burger. But logically the creative process is very similar. You just need to find a truly memorable way to land your sales message. Therein lies the magic.

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