The three-minute ad shows a “social experiment” in which a Burger King store implements a Whopper “fast lane.” Anyone not willing to fork over $26 was forced to wait longer for their meals. Customers who refused to pay any surcharges had to wait as long as 15 to 20 minutes.
The ad, called “Whopper Neutrality,” was meant to parody (with burgers) what advocates say repealing net neutrality regulations will do to the internet — allow service providers to favor some websites and apps over others.
President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission moved to put an end to Obama-era net neutrality rules in December, giving the issue renewed public attention.
The Burger King customers who appeared in the ad were understandably not pleased.
“You can’t give me the sandwich? It’s ready but you can’t give it to me?” one angered patron asks. “Oh God, this is the worst thing I’ve ever heard of!”
The commercial ends with Burger King’s mascot, a robed king donning a plastic mask and crown, sipping from an over-sized Reese’s novelty mug. It’s a clear dig at Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, who is known to whip out a similar mug at press conferences or in his own anti-regulation video.
Pai says he supports the repeal so the government will “stop micromanaging the internet.”
The fast food chain’s top marketing executive, Fernando Machado, said in a statement that the company believes “the internet should be like Burger King restaurants, a place that doesn’t prioritize and welcomes everyone.”
Some welcomed the net neutrality explainer and praised Burger King for taking a stance on the hot-button issue.
“This. Is. Brilliant,” one YouTube commenter using the name Charissa Ruth wrote.
But for many, the ad came off as an empty marketing ploy.
Engadget’s Mallory Locklear wrote that the ad “doesn’t really do a great job at explaining net neutrality.”
“Of course, this isn’t just a PSA, it is an ad after all and rooted in marketing for the brand,” she added.
Recode’s Tony Romm made a similar point, calling it another sign we’ve entered the age of “hyper-aware corporate behemoths with gargantuan marketing departments that see in every social and political cause du jour an opportunity for 15 minutes of web infamy.”
He points out that Burger King isn’t involved in any lawsuits looking to challenge the net neutrality repeal, and it hasn’t spent a dime lobbying on the issue in Washington D.C. A company spokesperson confirmed those points to CNNMoney.
Burger King is, however, urging customers to sign a pro-net neutrality petition on Change.org.
Executive Director Christie-Lee McNally of Free Our Internet, a right-wing advocacy group, also issued a statement lambasting Burger King over the ad.
“Burger King’s latest attempt to take on a complicated policy issue outside of its own industry reeks of desperation almost as badly as its Cheetos chicken fries. The only Whopper here is that Burger King is grossly misleading consumers into the realm of fantasy by suggesting a totally fictional internet pricing regime,” McNally said.