Nine editors of the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia penned an open letter outlining how Burger King's recent Google Home stunt violated the website's policies in regards to advertising. Wikipedia is now seeking an apology from the fast food brand, as reported by Ad Age.
Wikipedia users named "Burger King Corporation" and "Fermachado123" (Fernando Machado is Burger King's SVP of global brand management) edited a Wikipedia entry for the Whopper to include ad copy that Google Home would read when activated by the brand's "Connected Whopper" online video and TV spots. Wikipedia policy states that no page editors may insert "advertising, marketing or promotional material into any article."
- Burger King isn't the only company embroiled in the controversy, however. The Verge was quick to point out that the Wikipedia page for the Whopper could be edited to include trollish descriptors, and apparently affirmed this by putting "cyanide" and "medium-sized child" on the burger's ingredient list. Wikipedia also wants an apology from The Verge and parent company Vox Media.
What started off as a simple ad stunt has quickly snowballed into a messy situation for Burger King. While the brand has gotten plenty of media buzz for the Google Home promotions, most of the chatter has been negative, grilling the "Connected Whopper" spots for being intrusive — they activate devices without users' permission — and prone to risk. The Wikipedia letter only further stokes the bad PR fire, but Burger King might just be happy it's getting more awareness out of something that could have easily flared out over the weekend.
Google shut down the first Whopper ad almost immediately after it went live Wednesday last week, but Burger King had an entire slate of backups prepared as if it expected the tech giant to not play ball. Google likely wanted to save its own skin and avoid frustrated Home users, who weren't shy in voicing their ire over unwanted plugs for Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on its My Day feature in March.
The Verge, for its part, brought up a valid point in that most Wikipedia entries, while often credible, are also susceptible to being edited by pretty much anyone, and the Whopper page was quickly overrun with posts saying that the menu item is "cancer-causing" or made with "toenails." Wikipedia had administrators quickly clamp down to avoid further trolling, but the situation, on top of violating the site's conflict of interest guidelines, was probably a headache to deal with.
The "Connected Whopper" campaign marks one of the more significant instances of a brand trying to integrate a home digital assistant into its marketing to date. Given that the technology is still in its early days, the effort might come to serve as an example of how not to do these types of promotions — without the approval of users or any of the other parties involved.