mid-2011, D&AD launched the White Pencil via an open brief for
Peace One Day. The deadline came and went but one idea remained bottom
drawer / top of mind: to encourage rival corporations to join forces and
collaborate on a product on Peace Day. In October 2011 I joined
Y&R, not long after CCO Josh Moore. Josh was resolute in turning the
agency's creative product around and we had a foot in the door with
Burger King - a Y&R Media client.
ends. Year after year we put forward markedly different (and in
hindsight inferior) strategies to make the idea happen. I can't go into
detail, but they were time-consuming with no result, each time obliging
us to wait for the following Peace Day.
registered mcwhopper.com then spent months crafting a
password-protected 'sell site', which housed a 3-minute film detailing
the strategy, the idea, and the roll out. We hit send then tracked its
journey on Google Analytics. The refresh button got a workout.
What was the client's initial reaction?
New Zealand Burger King client was extremely supportive and provided us
with an email address for Fernando Machado, Senior Vice President of
Burger King Global Brand Management. A quick web stalk revealed that he
was responsible for the hugely successful Dove 'Beauty Sketches' and
more recently the Burger King 'Proud Whopper'. His response: "I don't
swear often but I fucking love the idea".
How did you get a global brand like Burger King to take such a risk?
words: persistence, diligence, Fernando. The first two are
self-explanatory. The third refers to one of the most affable and
creatively motivated clients you're ever likely to meet. It was no small
task mitigating concerns from every echelon of Burger King Corporation,
especially in the most litigious country on earth. Fernando helped
engineer the project so that all involved would appreciate how much the
reward outweighed the risk.
When did Peace One Day come on board?
contacted them early on and they instantly shared our enthusiasm. We've
since had an extremely open and collaborative partnership and needless
to say they're thrilled with the massive spike in awareness. They're
closer to achieving their goal of institutionalising Peace Day as a
globally recognised calendar event - a hugely significant ambition.
Did you consider other competing brands like Coke and Pepsi?
the start of the process we hedged our bets and contrived every
possible corporate mash-up, from FMCG brands to tech-giants 'Yahoogle',
however McWhopper always sat top of the list. It ticks every box: a
well-documented rivalry, a relevant catchphrase in the 'Burger Wars', a
product with a one-day shelf life, and a memorable hybrid name. It would
be great to see other brands adopt the platform in years to come - can
of Copsi anyone?
AdWeek called the campaign a 'masterful PR move'. How did you manage to keep this secret from McDonald's?
hindsight, even if McD's had caught wind of it, I'm not sure they would
have believed it to be true. Regardless, our paranoia reached fear and
loathing status, so insiders were kept to a minimum. Just a handful of
people inside the agency were privy to the campaign; the majority of
staff learned about it the same way as the rest of the world.
response from the McDonald's CEO was perceived as somewhat lackluster
by mainstream and social media. Were you surprised by that?
Jono (our Head of Planning) and I were having breakfast in New York
when their response went live. We all read it and thought 'Okay, it's a
bit vague, but sounds like we'll be doing something.' Perhaps we were
still jet-lagged because the media interpreted it as an out-and-out 'no'
and the ensuing social media backlash against McD's wasn't pretty. We,
on the other hand, were completely respectful of their decision.
Besides, we had a plan in place for every conceivable turn of events and
lackluster or not, their response simply whipped a horse that had
He concluded with 'P.S. A simple phone call will do next time.' Was that approach ever considered?
It would have been the perfect approach had we intended to raise awareness of Peace Day amongst a target market of one.
The 'DIY McWhopper' has subsequently become something of a social media phenomenon. Was this part of the strategy?
are cool apparently, so we were almost certain DIY McWhoppers would
become a thing, whether McDonald's were on board or not. We produced a
step-by-step 'burger build' film for mcwhopper.com, to inspire the
public to build the burger themselves and generate further content. Sure
enough, countless McWhoppers have been created, reviewed, and shared on
social and mainstream media. McDonald's said no, but the Internet said
Meanwhile the official burger evolved
into a product significantly more epic than the initial proposal. Tell
us about the Peace Day Burger.
We received unprompted
counter-proposals from four other competitors, large and small. Wayback
Burgers, Krystal, and Brazilian eatery Giraffas all took to social media
to raise their hands for the project, and Denny's took out a full-page
ad in USA Today and produced an online film. Naturally Burger King
embraced them all, and together the five restaurants collaborated to
create the 'Peace Day Burger', a hybrid burger containing a key
ingredient from each restaurant's signature sandwich, served at a pop-up
on Peace Day, 21st September. And McDonald's eventually came to the
Peace Day party. Supported by Burger King, Facebook, Google, MasterCard,
and several other large corporations, they created a 30-second animated
spot in aid of the U.N World Food Programme that aired in 38 countries
for one day only - Peace Day, 21st September.
Any results to share?
study voice: "To quote Vice Magazine, the campaign 'blew up social
media', trending worldwide on Facebook and Twitter. It featured on
nearly every major media channel, achieving over 7.6 billion
impressions, more than USD$144 million in earned media, and a
substantial 40% increase in Peace Day awareness. The results were
Have you put together your own DIY McWhopper?
would be remiss of us not to test the product. It would be equally
remiss of us not to have a few drinks now the campaign has run its
successful course. Then retest the product at 3am.VIEW THE CASE STUDY VIDEO