Burger King CMO: No-one wants to watch your ads unless you are at the Superbowl

Burger King’s Fernando Machado urges marketers to “hit a nerve” in order to cut through the clutter of advertising.

Unless it is the Superbowl or Christmas “no-one wants to watch your ads” according to Burger King’s global CMO, Fernando Machado.

Speaking at the IPA’s EFF Week conference yesterday (13 October), he explained: “The reality is, and I am sorry to break it to you, no-one wants to watch your ads unless you are at the Superbowl or at Christmas. People are not sitting on the couch anymore waiting anxiously to watch your TV campaigns.”

The solution to grabbing people’s attention is to trigger an emotional response, according to Machado. And the more intense the better.

“If you want to cut through the clutter and not rely on an insanely big budget, which most marketers don’t have, you need to do things that are bold and edgy and hit a nerve. You need to trigger an emotion and stand out,” he explained.

If you want to cut through the clutter and not rely on an insanely big budget you need to do things that are bold and edgy and hit a nerve.

Fernando Machado, Buger King

Burger King’s ads have become synonymous with risk-taking. The fast-food chain has built a reputation for personality-driven ads earning it 94 Cannes Lions, including four Grand Prixs, and Machado the title of creative marketer of the year in 2017.

However, Machado believes being bold is not reserved for certain brands, like Burger King, but a necessity for all. He said: “If you want to be relevant these days you need to push the boundaries of creativity to get noticed and if you don’t get noticed all of the stuff is just theory because it doesn’t really matter.”

He added: “People don’t even realise you exist and it does not matter what you are saying because people aren’t listening. So yes you should go all in with creativity.”

Getting comfortable with discomfort

Whether dialling up its rivalry with McDonald’s or doing unusual creative work (like promoting a mouldy burger) Burger King is unafraid of controversy. And Machado believes it is important marketers adapt to feeling uncomfortable, at times.

He explained: “The feeling of being uncomfortable is a good thing. It probably means we are doing something that has never been done before, it means we are stamping in uncharted territory.”

However, this does not mean markteres don’t have to plan. Machado has a clear three-step process for every piece of creative.

He explained: “Every time I have an idea I ask, ‘Is this idea on brand?’ The second [question] is, ‘Is this idea helping me accomplish my strategic objectives’ and third, ‘Is the idea any good?’.” he said.

Having a clear set of steps to work through ensures he can take risks with campaigns that “might be a little bit out there” and handle the discomfort. Machado also worked his way up to bolder ads by starting small in order to bring the whole company along with him and “prove credibility”.

He explained: “It is really important you have a common understanding [with the rest of the business] of what the brand is, what it stands for and what is the personality of the brand. That is step number one. Step number two is to have courage in terms of strategy: what are you trying to accomplish and what are you going to do in terms of success?”

Marketers should then start small and align with these goals. Then it will find that “suddenly you will get into a rhythm and suddenly your organisation will be more comfortable with being uncomfortable” he predicted.

He added that mistakes are inevitable but you should “be humble and learn from it next time”.

Machado warned against forgetting about core brand assets when trying out new creatives, which he felt is a common mistake for many marketers.

He explained: “The more successful you are, and the better you are, the more you feel tempted to expand the brand further and you may risk more of your core being exposed.”

He admitted that he wasn’t immune to this mistake and had made it himself “a couple of times” while a young marketer at Unilever and in the early days in Burger King.

“It’s one of the challenges we have is how do you invigorate the core and how do you keep the core exciting. In our case we do a lot around the Whopper, most of our best ideas are on Whopper,” he said.

He concluded: “Normally your core will decline faster than your satellite or new innovation will grow.”