Burger King ad threatens to renew debate over voice devices


A new Burger King TV commercial is designed to trigger Google's voice-controlled speakers in viewers' homes, adding a wrinkle to the debate over whether such devices have become too invasive.

In the 15-second ad, a Burger King employee says, "OK, Google. What is the Whopper burger?" If viewers are watching the commercial near a Google Home gadget, the "OK Google" prompt will cause the device to read the Wikipedia entry for the sandwich. The TV spots are airing nationally starting Wednesday on networks such as Spike, MTV and Comedy Central.

Update: Looks like Google has disabled the ad from triggering the command.

>> Popeyes to be acquired by Burger King parent

The commercial extends Burger King's record of trying to push the envelope with its marketing. In 2015, the restaurant chain sought a "truce" with rival McDonald's by offering to create a peace burger called the McWhopper. It also brought back its deliberately creepy King mascot in recent years. The character loomed in the background during the much-hyped boxing match of Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao in 2015.

The Google stunt could renew concerns about whether voice-activated technology has unintended consequences. Amazon.com's Echo devices and Samsung Electronics's smart televisions have faced criticism from privacy groups over the extent of the conversations and data that they track. The Echo, which answers to "Alexa," also lets consumers buy products with quick voice commands -- creating the potential for accidental orders.

>> Burger King to stop buying from farms that abuse chickens

Burger King, owned by Restaurant Brands International Inc., said it's not collaborating with Alphabet Inc.'s Google on the ads. But the plug could give a boost to a device that is playing catch-up with the Echo. Analysts estimate that Google shipped about 500,000 units in the first quarter after the Home product debuted late last year.

"It's a cool way, and a bold way, to surprise our guests," said Jose Cil, president of the Burger King brand. The company believes the interaction will be "very positive," he said.

A broader U.S. restaurant slump is forcing restaurant chains like Burger King to vie more fiercely for customers. Some have introduced new menu items and value deals, while others have increased advertising to boost customer traffic. McDonald's began offering $1 and $2 drink specials this month, while Wendy's has been remodeling stores and touting its fresh beef.

>> Burger King has a new shake to go with other new, odd menu items

Burger King also rolled out a new version of its chicken sandwich last month, and it enlisted " haters" -- people who criticized the old sandwich on social media -- to market the revamped item.

"Burger King has been doing creative, innovative things for a long time," Cil said. "It's something that we feel strongly about."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation & World

Stranger surprises Goodwill shoppers with impromptu piano performance
Stranger surprises Goodwill shoppers with impromptu piano performance

A stranger started playing a thrift shop piano on Monday surprising and delighting shoppers. Chris Matta shared a video, which has been viewed more than 920,000 times, of the impromptu performance at the Norwalk Goodwill. “This gifted gentleman just walked into my store and moved me to tears,” she wrote. Matta told WJW that...
Robin Roberts tells Omarosa ‘Bye, Felicia’ after ‘Good Morning America’ appearance
Robin Roberts tells Omarosa ‘Bye, Felicia’ after ‘Good Morning America’ appearance

Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts didn’t seem very impressed with Omarosa Manigault Newman’s recent appearance on the show, where she explained why she is leaving President Donald Trump’s administration next month. After watching the interview, Roberts had choice words for the former reality TV star: “Bye...
Omarosa teases tell-all in post-White House resignation interview
Omarosa teases tell-all in post-White House resignation interview

Just a day after the news that Omarosa Manigault Newman was leaving her role in President Donald Trump’s administration, she appeared on “Good Morning America,” where she told Michael Strahan she planned on sharing her story soon. “When I have a chance to tell my story, Michael, I have quite a story to tell,” Manigault...
Trump would improve ties with Russia if his foes would let him, laments Putin
Trump would improve ties with Russia if his foes would let him, laments Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that he didn't think President Trump would be able to improve relations between their two countries because he was being held back by his political opposition.  Saying that Trump undoubtedly has had some successes as president, including a booming U.S. stock market, Putin said that reports about...
Man tries to trade chicken Alfredo, Sprite for sex with teen boy, police say
Man tries to trade chicken Alfredo, Sprite for sex with teen boy, police say

An Ohio man is accused of trying to have sex with a 15-year-old boy -- who in reality was an undercover police officer -- by enticing the teen with chicken Alfredo and Sprite.  Albert George Maruna IV, 22, was arrested Tuesday and charged with attempted unlawful sexual contact with a minor, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, possessing...
More Stories