Let's be honest, people: advertising rules us. It affects how we shop and even how we think. In some ways, when executed properly and with just a pinch of luck, it can completely trick us or even change our way of thinking.
The Left-Handed Burger
Burger King advertising is known for an off-beat sense of humor and a dangerous amount of overt sexual imagery. For example, here's an ad for Super Seven Incher, known as “Trying Way Too Damn Hard” in some markets:
In case the idea of condiment-smearing blowies doesn't get you in the mood for sandwiches, you can always try out Subserviant Chicken, which is way more creepy than the name could ever imply.
But before Burger King started to lose a whole bunch of money, the advertising was a lot more wholesome and way less nightmare-inducing.
1998 saw Burger King launching a new campaign: capturing the left-handed market. A full page ad in USA Today heralded the creation of the Left-Handed Whopper, a standard Whopper made with the condiments rotated one-hundred and eighty degrees. At long last, the conveyors of deadly foods were finally catering to the southpaws.
It was, of course, a joke, with two painfully obvious tip-offs:
1. The ad appeared just in time for April Fool's Day, and 2. The sandwich is a freaking circle in the first place.
But alas, it would seem that the gullible readers of USA Today will believe anything that appears in the pages of an award-winning newspaper. Burger King reported thousands of customers ordering the non-existent sandwiches as well as patrons asking to ensure they received a right-handed sandwich should that be there preference. Please keep in mind that again, these are round sandwiches, and that any error made during assembly could be corrected by turning it around.
Taco Bell Thankful for Lawsuits
At this point in human history I can only hope that most people capable of constructing a sentence know better than to trust the claims made by fast-food restaurants. After all, if the folks at Kentucky Fried Chicken told the truth, your delicious Double Down would look like this:
instead of this:
Over the past two decades there's been a slew of lawsuits against fast food restaurants, usually on the grounds of false advertising of misleading nutritional information. To keep poking at KFC, their claim that fried chicken was as healthy alternative to Burger King's Whopper, for example, ruffled more than a few feathers. But a more recent case (this past February) brings Taco Bell into the spotlight.
For years Taco Bell has described their beef as “seasoned.” Please note the quotation marks, because they're important. An employee stepped forward with the bold claim that the “seasoned” beef wasn't seasoned at all. What's more, it contained oat filler, which would actually bring the grade of their beef down. Given we're talking about Taco Bell here, there really isn't that far to fall, but still, ouch.
Twitter exploded with people discussing the issue, many claiming outrage and dishonesty, which eventually lead to a class-action lawsuit against the company. This is usually the part where shit hits the fan, but Taco Bell decided to take the claims head on with a full-page ad reading “Thank You for Suing Us.”
The company decided to be entirely open about their product, revealing their recipe in its entirety and explaining the function oat filler has as well as dispelling some rumors that had popped up along the way. The ad, while somewhat insulting at first, managed to save face with much of the public, and the company was commended for it's honesty (after the fact, anyway). Eventually, the suit was dropped.
Bottle cap promotions are a dime a dozen, offering all sorts of prizes from points (to be exchanged later) to digital downloads of popular songs, all for the purchase of one bottle of soda. Sweet deal, right?
Well, there's a reason those promotions keep the prizes small. In 1992, PepsiCo was running a lottery of sorts in the Philippines: every cap would have a numerical code underneath, and on a specific date a code would be announced. The winner would receive something in the area of one million pesos, or about forty-thousand dollars US, completely tax-free. A pretty big deal, right?
But of course, there was one small problem: instead of printing one winning cap, they printed eight-hundred thousand. The code, 349, was in the hands of way too many customers. The Pepsi solution? Don't make good on your promise.
What followed was a full-on cola riot in the Philippines. Over thirty Pepsi trucks were destroyed and bottling plants were bombed. Terrified of the rebellion their beverage had created, Pepsi CEOs employed bodyguards (presumably bombproof) and lost millions of dollars in damages. Facing a series of arrests, trials, lawsuits and exploding things, Pepsi paid out two-million dollars as a “goodwill gesture,” with winners netting all of nineteen dollars apiece.
Shaving Cream Sends a Man to Mars
Burma-Shave was once a power house in the fast-paced world of shaving creams, but what made them really famous was their unique form of roadside advertising: six short signs, spaced one after another along a road, forming a short little poem. Here's a solid example:
Within this vale / Of toil / And sin / Your head grows bald / But not your chin - use / Burma-Shave
Burma-Shave regularly held contests for costumers to write their own little bit of rhyming advertising, which proved just as popular. However, the company nearly landed in hot water twice with their verses: the first, poking fun at coupon promotions, promised a free jar to anyone that sent in a fender (it was a joke, of course, but they made good on the promise to those who couldn't tell or wanted to press their luck). The other was a tad more complex. Another verse read:
Free — free / a trip to Mars / for 900 / empty jars / Burma-Shave
Grocery store owner Arlyss French decided he would like to see the red planet and began collecting cans from his own customers. When French messaged the company to inquire where he could send the jars, he received a rather cryptic response:
If a trip / To Mars You Earn / Remember, Friend / There's No Return
Threatening to abandon their customer in the frozen depths of space, Burma-Shave bought itself a little more time to figure out what exactly they were going to do about this French guy, who may or may not be insane. Then, they got a brilliant idea.
When French arrived at the Burma-Shave head office, he was presented with a vacation to Moers, Germany. Often mispronounced as “Mars,” the little German town was Berma-Shave's legal saving grace. Fortunately, French was satisfied with his trip, and companies have stopped offering customers trips into space on the off chance they may be entirely off their rockers.