Is Burger King’s “Square Butts” ad responsible?

Last night, a friend from high school sent me this question via Facebook:

Can you explain why ANYONE (let alone Burger King) would think it a good idea to adapt “I like Big Butts” to market a children’s meal?

Here’s the ad in question:


Extended version

This is one of the classic Responsible Marketing questions we talk about here. It takes real creativity to break through, and this ad is creative. But it’s also controversial, and controversy gets people talking and drives word of mouth. I’d argue this ad is almost impossible to keep to yourself.

Burger King knew exactly what they were approving: A funny, but potentially offensive ad for parents that they’d never want their young children to see.

Mission accomplished.

I am Burger King’s target:

  • I have small children
  • Sir-Mix-A-Lot song was popular when I was in college
  • And I laughed out loud when Mix-A-Lot himself said “Booty is booty”  at the end

But the idea of my kids seeing this ad makes me cringe. The word “butt” is off limits in my house (my kids are age six and four), and the sexual references are everywhere.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker.com puts it this way:

The point is Sir Mix-a-Lot is teaching obesity and sexuality to your kids and you’re really okay with that, deep down, because you love Whoppers.

Is this ad message responsible?

I don’t think so.

But what’s your take?

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Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Matt says:

    Responsible? Probably not. But it definitely hits it’s target market. I am 32, I have grown up with the Baby Got Back song, and Sponge Bob. I am also all about saving money, so 99 cent kids meals hits home for a cheaper fast meal for the 5 of us.

    I personally am OK with my 6 year old watching this commercial. Sit and watch Disney for an afternoon, and you will find some of those shows are no better than this commercial. Hannah Montana, That’s so raven, The Suite Life and others teach my daughter alot of things I have more problems with than this commercial.

    In my house butt is an acceptable word. What else is it called for crying out loud.

  • Rachel Levy says:

    I would first ask… who is the target of the ad… is it the parents or the kids? Either way though, I think the ad is not responsible for either. If it’s targeting parents, the brand is still associated with this for the children. No doubt, BK will extend the ad throughout its stores and websites, so it will be seen by the younger kids. Drawing attention to butts and the dancing in the ad is not something I’d like my 6-year-old to see.

  • Courtney Woods says:

    I think what we are missing here is something in PR and marketing called social judgment theory. When applied, and accepted, it moves us a few more inches on some scale — and in this instance, its sexing women (which I personally find offensive) to sell.

    So, when people look at this ad and say, “it’s not that bad” — they are already comfortable with the images our culture looks at through the media. I am hoping to raise my three sons with a respect for women; as such, this commercial (while the company says it targets adults, it is running during American Idol so BK is now exploitive and deceptive in my book), is nothing short of irresponsible.

    I wish the media would stop focusing on women as body parts and objects and embrace a different approach: “Baby got brains…Baby got grace…Baby got courage…Baby got work ethic.” Then perhaps we’d stop reading about missing girls showing up in suitcases or missing girls not showing up at all. Once you move an inch and it becomes acceptable to objectify, we can continue to expect a declining moral “slippery slope.” So the fact the public doesn’t mind the ad scares me more than the ad itself.

  • Miranda says:

    i think this commercial is ridiculous! trust me for me to say that it must be a bad thing! the part where they say booty is booty…..def not for kids to hear!! its just ridiculous how commercials and tv are now adays!

  • GVC says:

    One of my sons is 9. He likes to sing…..if he sees this commercial a couple of times then he’ll memorize it and he’ll be singing it the next time we are walking through the mall. I can just see it….we’ll be walking along with all kinds of people around us and he’ll be singing loudly “I don’t like big butts….”…..yes that will go across well….

    Completely inappropriate!! I won’t be letting my kids see this….I also don’t like the tv stations that play this during american idol and other popular shows that kids might watch! The TV stations need to take more responsibility here.

    I also make sure that I don’t go to Burger King….haven’t been there in many, many years. (and I do like there whoppers but I don’t like there marketing for kids).

    –GVC

  • TeriA says:

    I this this is a terrible idea for marketing a kid’s meal. It would be in poor taste for any reason, but it has annoyed me enough that I sent a letter to Burger King letting them know that they will not be getting my business in the future. I usually don’t take stands like this, but this has pushed my buttons – and I don’t even have children.

  • J. Paul says:

    I was shocked when I saw the Burger King commercial and thought this has to be a bit, not a serious commercial. I think it’s totally irresponsible and inappropriate of Burger King and have, in fact, called them to say so.

  • Joe Kennedy says:

    I’m sure it has proven to be a highly effective ad campaign, but I don’t find it responsible at all – and will (continue to) help keep my family away from Burger King

  • Why not have some guys with square butts, too? Equal opportunity bootay. Or dress them all in Sponge Bob outfits. It’s already surreal — why make it sexist?

  • Jorge Madrazo says:

    I think the whole thing is about merging sponge bob and burger king, with that they are trying to appeal to the kids and the parents, by using the song for the second and the cartoon for the first.

    I don’t think the kids will go deeper than that…

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