Hollywood isn’t the only place creative folks go to spend their time reviving old ideas in slightly different ways. As you gear up for a summer of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, and 22 Jump Street, why not stop by your local Burger King to enjoy a Big King sandwich, brought to you by the Subservient Chicken?
Subservient Chicken–an example of what we now call “viral marketing” (okay, we called it that then, too)–involved a website at www.subservientchicken.com, where users could “have it their way” by typing commands for a man in a chicken outfit (and garters, to make the whole thing extra kinky) to perform. You typed “jumping jacks,” the kinky chicken man did jumping jacks; etc. Burger King and agencies Crispin Porter + Bogusky and The Barbarian Group built the site, but kept some distance from it. It was a massive, unlikely hit in the spring of 2004. And it was followed by a series of high-profile, “non-traditional” campaigns from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, like the “Whopper Freakout,” whereby the chain told customers that they’d sold out of the iconic sandwich and filmed the angry reactions, and “Whopper Virgins,” where people living in remote areas of the world were fed fast food for the first time. Needless to say, the stunt attracted attention.
And now that the Subservient campaign is a decade old, the brand is bringing the chicken back in this new campaign from agencies Code + Theory, Horizon, and WPP’s David. The endeavor began with a #tbt post on the company’s Twitter page, and continued on Sunday with half-page ads in various papers (including the New York Times and Chicago Tribune) asking “Have you seen this chicken,” with an image of the horrifying face of the Subservient Chicken, looking like the terrible lust child of Gonzo and Camilla.
Visitors to SubservientChicken.com now see the familiar setup of the original website–a weird-looking living room on a camera feed–but there is no Chicken Man in it. Instead, any attempt to issue commands results in a Windows XP-style pop-up (oh, memories) informing visitors that the chicken has gone missing, and they need your help.
How one helps the chicken is unclear, but he has at least one ally: Dustin Diamond, better known as Screech from Saved By The Bell, who will play a role in the next phase of the campaign launching on Wednesday. Eric Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer for Burger King North America, told the Associated Press today that there’s a video coming in which the chicken will “turn the tables” on viewers (better learn to moonwalk, y’all) and that Screech is “an incredible addition to the film.” Hirschhorn also says that while the Subservient Chicken is tied to the 10th anniversary of the campaign and the launch of the Big King sandwich, he’ll be around for a while.
Whether America is prepared for more Subservient Chicken, or if they were sufficiently creeped out in 2004 and feel no need to revisit those feelings, remains to be seen. In the meantime, the Subservient Chicken joins Bic’s recently-announced Hunter & Bear revival as a weird, long-dead campaign that the brand responsible has opted to bring back in the hope of scoring a new viral hit. If it works or if it doesn’t, you can look forward to the image of the garter-clad man in a chicken costume burning your retinas for another few years all over again.