This morning, Burger King released a new advertisement meant to simultaneously annoy you and make you think, Huh. Funny … In the 15-second spot, a Burger King worker laments not having enough time to pitch his burger, and then leans close and says, “Okay, Google, what is the Whopper burger?” That phrase is designed to trigger the voice-activated Google Home speaker, which then reads the description from Wikipedia.
“We think about our guests’ perception and their perspective on how we interact with them, but on balance we felt this was a really positive way to connect with them,” Burger King president José Cil told the New York Times, heading off criticism about the ad being potentially invasive. Really, it’s a minor inconvenience that most TV-watching Google Home (and Amazon Echo) owners have experienced, more than it is invasive. At the same time, advertisers, don’t make this into a thing.
Burger King bought spots for the ad on networks including ABC, NBC, MTV, and Bravo on Wednesday night. Unfortunately for the burger chain, it doesn’t appear to have partnered with Google on the effort. As the Verge pointed out, and we can confirm, playing the spot no longer triggers the speaker to respond. This is likely done on Google’s end by flagging the specific audio “fingerprint” of the ad. A lot of TV watchers tonight are in for a confusing experience. (Although, I am sitting here blogging about an ad so … BK wins?)
That Google appears to be in opposition to these shenanigans is nice, but don’t assume that it’s at all opposed to advertising. Last month, it began inserting promotional material for Beauty and the Beast into the My Day feature during the film’s release window. Burger King’s fun may be over for now, but you can probably expect this kind of alley-oop to show up again in the near future, with Google’s approval. What a fun world we’ve built ourselves.