Fast-food chain Burger King said on Wednesday it will start televising a commercial for its signature Whopper sandwich that is designed to activate Google voice-controlled devices, raising questions about whether marketing tactics have become too invasive. Google quickly responded however, by stopping activations.
The 15-second ad starts with a Burger King employee holding up the sandwich saying, "You're watching a 15-second Burger King ad, which is unfortunately not enough time to explain all the fresh ingredients in the Whopper sandwich. But I've got an idea. OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger?"
If a viewer has the Google Home assistant or an Android phone with voice search enabled within listening range of the TV, that last phrase - "Ok Google, what is the Whopper burger?" - is intended to trigger the device to search for Whopper on Google and read out the finding from Wikipedia.
"Burger King saw an opportunity to do something exciting with the emerging technology of intelligent personal assistant devices," said a Burger King representative.
Burger King, owned by Restaurant Brands International, said the ad is not in collaboration with Google. As per a report by The Verge, Google pulled the plug on the voice-based activation triggered by the Burger King ad less than three hours after its unveiling. The report speculates that "Google has likely registered the sound clip from the ad to disable unwanted Home triggers, as it does with its own Google Home commercials."
Wikipedia had an interesting hand to play as well. Since the website can be edited by users, the definition of Burger King's Whopper had been changed to insert "cyanide" as an ingredient in one version. Another user later changed the definition to say the Whopper is "the worst hamburger product" sold by the chain. Burger King says it is not behind the negative edits and that it has been trying to change the definition back to one that it was hoping to promote.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, the Wikipedia entry included a lengthy description that said the burger "has undergone several reformulations including resizing and bread changes." It also noted that the Whopper is often "at the center of advertising promotions, product tie-ins, and even corporate practical jokes and hoaxes."
Google declined to comment and Wikipedia was not available for comment.
The ad, which became available on YouTube on Wednesday, will run nationally during prime-time on networks such as Spike, Comedy Central, MTV, E! and Bravo, and also on late-night shows starring Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon.
Some media outlets, including CNN Money, reported that Google Home stopped responding to the commercial shortly after the ad became available on YouTube.
Voice-powered digital assistants such as Google Home and Amazon's Echo have been largely a novelty for consumers since Apple's Siri introduced the technology to the masses in 2011. The devices can have a conversation by understanding context and relationships, and many use them for daily activities such as sending text messages and checking appointments.
Many in the industry believe the voice technology will soon become one of the main ways users interact with devices, and Apple, Google and Amazon are racing to present their assistants to as many people as possible.
Written with agency inputs