In the early 2000s, Burger King hired Miami-based ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky in an attempt to attract a hipper, younger, predominantly male audience. As a result, we were introduced to the strange, slightly sinister version of the Burger King with a perma-grin that rivaled the Joker's.
Commercials depicted the King in seriously disturbing ways. In some of them, the King has pole-danced, invaded a woman's apartment à la King Kong, and woken up in bed with a guy. Crispin Porter + Bogusky also thought it was a good idea to pair the King with sexy booty-shaking girls in BK commercials for kids' meals.
In a 2009 article, the Atlantic called the mascot an "overgrown mannequin charming his way out of restraining orders" and noted that "between 2003 — the year before Burger King hired Crispin as agency of record — and 2008, Burger King's share of the burger-chain market fell to 14.2% from 15.6%, according to Technomic, while McDonald's share rose to 46.8% from 43.6%. McDonald's has posted average annual sales growth of 6.3% compared with BK's 2.9% gain during that period." Ouch.
In 2011, Burger King parted ways with the Coconut Grove ad firm and dethroned the King. According to a Forbes article, BK senior VP of marketing Alex Maccedo's reason for the change was simple. ”People want a reason to go back to Burger King… There are no plans to bring the King back anytime soon.”
So it's a bit of a shock that Burger King has opened the dungeon doors and allowed the King to re-emerge. In this new commercial for $1.49 chicken nuggets, the King doesn't stalk anyone. Instead, it's a straightforward and short ad for the nuggets. Even without pole dancing or sticking his head through your open window, the King still manages to creep the hell out of us, once again, with just that giant shiny face.
According to a Burger King spokesperson, the new campaign is the work of ad agency Pitch Inc. Burger King chief marketing officer Eric Hirschhorn explained the return of the mascot: “The King has been breaking status quo for decades and has earned his space in pop culture. He conveys the confident and bold spirit of the Burger King brand, which you can see comes to life in everything we do.” And although Burger King has chosen to remain mum on whether this is the beginning of a new reign for the King, it's a sure bet we'll be seeing more of this royal creep.
Follow Laine Doss on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.