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  • 08.26.15

McDonald’s Rebuffs Burger King’s International Day of Peace “McWhopper” Proposal

The Golden Arches responds with a PR burn that will hit BK right in the jewels.

It must’ve seemed like such a great idea at the time. Sitting around the Burger King boardroom, talking about things the brand could to to raise awareness for the UN’s International Day of Peace on September 21st. And all of a sudden there it is. Why not open a pop-up restaurant for one day in an Atlanta parking lot between a Burger King and McDonald’s, staff it with employees of both companies and sell a burger called the McWhopper that mixes the Big Mac and the Whopper? Proceeds would be donated to Peace One Day, a nonprofit group seeking to raise awareness of the International Day of Peace. Fast food, world peace, marketing genius, right?

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Burger King decided to propose the idea to McDonald’s by way of full page ads in The New York Times and Chicago Tribune. Peace One Day even set up a site for the project. But somewhere along the way, amid all the excitement, someone forgot to tell McDonald’s, and the Golden Arches responded with a high brow sick burn that hit BK right in the jewels. Essentially calling it a trivial marketing stunt, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook quickly posted an open letter to Burger King suggesting the two companies actually do something meaningful and “let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequaled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war.” Easterbrook ended with a kicker of a postscript: “A simple phone call will do next time.”

OOOOH BURGER BURN.

The slyness of Burger King’s proposal was in how it immediately set McDonald’s up for failure. It was essentially social media blackmail, daring its rival to be as caring and human as BK had set itself up to be. Being a smaller competitor meant that this was always a win-win situation for Burger King. Either it gets good publicity for teaming with McD’s in the name of world peace or it comes out looking like the good guy when the Golden Arches rejects the idea. But perhaps the brand didn’t expect a third possible outcome. That McDonald’s was PR savvy enough to craft a perfect response that essentially flipped the entire script, and made them the Drake to BK’s Meek Mill in this new burger chain… beef.

Related: 74 Years Of McDonald’s Marketing In Two Minutes

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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