Subservient Chicken. Mascot for Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Poster child for viral marketing. But was he a good salesman?
April 23, 2009
I’ll give you finger licking good!
Burger King just celebrated the 5-year anniversary of its infamous “Subservient Chicken” web campaign produced by Crispin Porter & Bogusky and the Barbarian Group.
The anniversary came and went, with the trades and various bloggers picking up the story. Certainly the hubbub was nothing like it was when SK first danced upon the personal computing screens of America. Oh, weren’t we all a-twitter? And I’m talking pre-twitter.
Subservient Chicken put Crispin and Burger King on the map. But they were different maps weren’t they? The vaguely perverse chicken became an icon for its ad agency, eliciting more love and hate than the war in Iraq. SK validated Crispin’s Fame mission. SK validated the obsession for digital marketing. SK inflamed the passions of countless intern copywriters and art directors looking for new definitions of creativity.
But what exactly did the S-Chicken do for the B-King? I’m pretty sure it was created to sell chicken sandwiches. Did it? I don’t remember. It’s a safe bet that more people were talking about chicken than eating it. And since that is the definition of fame, then by Crispin’s criteria the campaign was wildly successful.
And if Subservient Chicken was a phenomenon then Crispin’s reinvention of the Burger King became an icon. The creepy and mischievous King is about as famous as marketing stuff gets, maybe not Tony the Tiger but right up there with Madge and Mr. Whipple. And the King doesn’t even have a catch phrase!
Famous. No question about it. Crispin delivered to its client a celebrity logo-type thing out of the charcoal broiled vapor.
But is it working? After Spongebob’s booty call, after “waking up with the King,” after all the campy mayhem and frat boy antics are more people buying Whoppers than Big Macs?
Maybe. I honestly don’t know.
I do know that despite having an ad campaign with almost no creative charisma, McDonald’s is making money hand over fist. Their “I’m Loving It” mantra has contributed mightily to the golden arches golden profits. Those results are known and talked about a lot more than the advertising. I’ve never been a fan of this line. On the contrary, I don’t like it. But that’s immaterial.
Which client do you think is happier?
As I write Adweek is reporting that BK intends to significantly increase ad spending next year, so they mustn’t be unhappy. But the WSJ indicates March sales were down sending the stock price sliding 20%.
All questions aside, I am firmly on record as being a great admirer of Crispin Porter & Bugusky. In my view, they are the Doyle Dane Bernbach of our time. But for all the hype (press) and glory (awards) I wonder about sales. For all the sizzle, where’s the beef?