Burger King's Pride Whopper campaign lands with a thud

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Burger King Austria thought it was doing a good thing promoting inclusion during Pride Month. However, as often happens, the advertising campaign quickly went awry. The advertising company has apologized for the burger backlash.


Saturday an apology was posted to agency Jung von Matt Donau’s LinkedIn page.

We’ve heard your voices and listened carefully.

The Pride Whopper is part of our client’s engagement as official partner with Vienna Pride. The work also includes an influencer campaign with proud members of the Austrian LGBTQ community. We at JvM Donau are proud of our queer community within our agency. Unfortunately, we still messed up and didn’t check well enough with community members on different interpretations of the Pride Whopper. That’s on us. The intended message of the Pride Whopper was to spread equal love and equal rights. Our strongest concern is if we offended members of the LGBTQ Community with this campaign. If this is the case, we truly apologize. We’ve learned our lessons and will include experts on communicating with the LGBTQ community for future work as promoting equal love and equal rights will still be a priority for us.

You can see the Instagram post by Burger King Austria here.

The backlash began on social media when gay people noticed an important part of the ad campaign – the buns. For whatever reason, the buns were meant to play a role in showing support for gay consumers. You can see that includes using two top buns on a Whopper and also two bottom buns on another Whopper. Not to get too graphic here, there is a more detailed description of the reason why gay customers found that detail offensive. It’s like the advertising company doesn’t understand gay sex, or something.


The Pride Whopper was unveiled on June 7 in social media ads featuring two versions of the restaurant’s signature burger – one with two domed and sesame seeded top buns, the other with two flat bottom buns – accompanied by the message, “Time to be proud.”

Of course, Twitter users were quick to point out that two bottoms or two tops is about as symbolic of pride and about as much a reason for celebration as a spilled bottle of video head cleaner.

It seems likely that the campaign would have landed better if the joke had worked. A former employee with furniture maker Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams recalled a Pride themed promotion in which the company’s Parsons dining table – whose tops and bases can be interchanged – was featured with the slogan “sexy bottom seeks perfect top” spelled across the showroom windows.

Okay. Apparently, the Pride Whopper campaign posts remain on Burger King Austria’s social media accounts.

Reacting to the campaign, one person dubbed it “one of the dumbest displays of performative activism I have ever seen.” Others criticized the fast-food restaurant company for not understanding “how gay sex works,” with others declaring the Pride Whopper “tone deaf,” “clueless,” and not a “celebration of LGBTQ+,” but rather a “monetization of it.” At this time, the Pride Burger campaign posts remain up on Burger King Austria’s social media accounts.


Here’s the thing – trying to turn food into woke symbols never works out well. Today is Juneteenth and just last month I wrote about Walmart’s venture into a woke campaign in support of Juneteenth by offering Juneteenth ice cream. What a mess. No one was happy with the results. Advertising companies are really slow to learn this lesson. Just stop. Food doesn’t have to be woke.

Burger King seems to be particularly slow in learning the lesson. This isn’t the first ad campaign that went sideways for them. Last year there was a campaign in the U.K. that took a turn.

Burger King has been in hot water before over promotions and ad campaigns that were, by orders of magnitude, more offensive and controversial than this one.

It was just last year that Burger King UK tweeted, on International Women’s Day, no less, “Women belong in the Kitchen.” The provocative move was intended to draw attention to gender disparities in the restaurant and food service industries, but instead drew ire for reinforcing sexist tropes.

There was a weird little hedge issued when the backlash began over the ‘equal buns’.

“Of course, this doesn’t just mean same-sex love,” BK Austria added on its official Pride Whopper webpage. “The PRIDE WHOPPER® breaded the same way symbolizes all possible love constellations. Because love is love.”


If you’re promoting a Pride Whopper, it’s all about same-sex love. That’s the point. Do better, Burger King Austria.

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