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Burger King Targets TV Spot To Google Home, Not Viewers

The Connected Whopper is a direct pitch designed to get the attention of Google Home — but hours after it debuted, the ad was quickly thwarted.

Imagine a time in the future when the machines advertise to the machines.

Well, with a new TV and online video spot by Burger King, the future is now.

In its latest promotion for Burger King’s iconic Whopper, Miami-based chain, which runs about 7,000 outlets in the U.S., is attempting to by viewers by taking its message right to Google Home, the search giant’s voice-activated digital assistant that it unveiled last fall.

‘Okay, Google: Block This Ad’

In the spot (a 15-second YouTube version is here), a Burger King cashier addresses the audience saying that there’s too many “delicious ingredients” in the Whopper to list in a short commercial. So, instead, the cashier leans in to the camera and says, “But I’ve got an idea: Okay, Google, what is the Whopper Burger?”

The idea is that the commercial would then be extended to Google Home, delivering clear engagement with the consumer.

Clever as that attempt to take control of the Google assistant may be, the move may have been thwarted by the search giant as news sites began reporting about the ad.

According to 9to5Google, the search giant quickly disabled the “Okay, Google” query from the Google Home system, unless the device’s owner specifically asks for it.

(We’ve reached out to Google and Burger King, and the agency that created the spot, David Miami, for comment and will update accordingly.)

Updated:

“We can confirm that the smart speaker technology that would be triggered by the new Burger King commercial was disabled,” a Burger King rep told GeoMarketing. “You’ll have to tune in tonight to see if the commercial triggers the Whopper Sandwich definition response.” 

The rep continued: “Burger King saw an opportunity to do something exciting with the emerging technology of intelligent personal assistant devices. The brand has developed a national ad campaign that could trigger guests who have enabled voice commands on their smart speaker technology.

“For the first time ever, a traditional :15 second television ad will be extended by the voice activation of enabled home assistant devices – essentially breaking the 4th wall,” the Burger King rep said.

The Angriest Burger — Some Google Home users might resent an ad for the Whopper talking to their Google Assistant

Remote Control

The widening embrace of artificial intelligence-based voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant/Google Home, Siri, Cortana, among other tools such as bots that “learn” to respond to consumers queries has opened up a range of thinking about one-to-one marketing and personalization at scale.

And the capabilities of these systems, which are still in their infancy, has sparked a lot of thoughts about how to use them to marketing advantage.

While the potential has clearly excited Burger King, which is known for jumping early into interactive advertising with its ground-breaking Subservient Chicken campaign in 2004. That effort, created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, was noted for its dedicated micro-site that still allows viewers to type in “commands” that a person in a chicken mascot outfit dutifully performs.

‘Okay, Google…’

While playfully asking Google Home — or another virtual smart assistant — to describe a product to its owner sounds humorous, many device owners would surely resent the commandeering of its “brain” for marketing purposes.

Some might even consider it an insidious invasion of privacy, particularly at a time when privacy fears about what sort of personal information and data electronic devices could be picking up and selling for companies to bid on are being more hotly debated by consumers.

Case in point: even owners of Google Home took to Twitter to vent after a Super Bowl TV ad  for that exact Google Home device started setting off Google Assistant inadvertently.

The problem of ambient noise — or deliberate attempts to manipulate and wrest control of Google Assistant from its owners — is easily dealt with. Consumers can set the device to ignore background TV sounds or simply turn it off at times.

But it’s reasonable to assume that as voice-activated assistants become an integral part of consumers’ daily life at home, work, and on-the-go, the challenge of determining what gets heard and what gets blocked is going to be a tricky balance for marketers hoping to connect on this most open of tech platforms.