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The art of clowning around

Pink Key Consulting’s Richard Pink on Burger King’s recent disruptor promotion.

Any excuse for a good gag – what’s the worst insult that someone can level at you?

‘Who’s this clown?’

That’s because it implies a) that you’re a clown, and b) that you’re not one of the better known ones.

Anyway, the reason for this is to introduce a marvellous little bit of anarchy thrown out by Burger King last month where it was offering a free Whopper Sandwich to the first 500 people who turned up at the Leicester Square Branch in a six-hour window near Halloween dressed as a clown.

It was an excellent publicity stunt to support the launch of Stephen King’s It. However, is anyone else detecting a little bit of a slap for its largest competitor in there, too?

It’s a subtle one, but I bet that when it was discussed, someone in the meeting saw an opportunity to have a bit of a dig. I would also imagine that someone else (possibly the in-house lawyer) might have a got a little bit nervous about it possibly crossing a line.

Personally I think it’s an excellent and edgy idea, and easily explainable in the context of the film and the natural fear a lot of people have about clowns around that time of year. Nevertheless I suspect there was a bit of chuckling that the opportunity had presented itself.

I’m not an advocate of anyone abusing intellectual property rights, however I suspect that Ronald is big enough not to be worried about a relatively low level stunt like this one.

You only have to look at the tag line ‘Come as a clown and eat like a King’ to know what was going through their minds. And to put it beyond any doubt, have a good look at what the clown is wearing – look familiar?

It’s easy to get carried away with an idea like this. I suspect that anything more explicit for this campaign might have seen a ‘cease and desist’ flying around, and possibly worse. However, I think it has just about kept within the boundaries of decency, and the shortness of the campaign will mean it’s not going to overly worry the people at the Golden Arches.

That is until a picture emerges on Instagram of 100 Ronald Macdonalds tucking into a Burger King meal, or someone writes a blog about it – oh hang on…

Richard Pink is md of Pink Key Consulting – an agency specialising in licensing and promotions. He can be contacted on

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