Burger King Angers Belgian Monarchy With Cheeky Ad About King Philippe

Controversial work asks, 'Who is the King?'

Headshot of Patrick Coffee

In the immortal words of Omar Little, “You come at the king, you best not miss.”
Over the weekend, Burger King sought to promote the late June opening of its first Belgian outlet with a campaign poking a bit of fun at Belgium’s King Philippe. The royal family was very much not amused.
“We told them that we were not happy with them using an image of the king in their campaign,” a palace spokesperson said, according to Reuters.
“Who is the King?” is a fairly simple effort that consists of a website asking visitors to choose their monarch—Philippe or the Burger King. If one picks the sandwich chain, the site brings up an image of a voting booth and invites fans to share their choice on social media. If one attempts to choose King Phillipe, things get a bit more complicated.
On one’s first attempt to to do so, the site asks, “Are you sure you want to pick King Philippe? He won’t be making you fries.” Your second attempt brings another “Are you sure?” And on the third go-around, the copy reads “Are you definitely sure?” and hypes a one-euro Whopper deal while the “Oui” button shrinks and darts away from the users’s mouse.
In other words, the site completely prevents you from choosing the real king over the Burger King.
The topic is particularly testy because, in 1950, angry post-World War II Belgian citizens forced Philippe’s grandfather, Leopold III, to abdicate the throne in favor of his son, Baudoin. Prior to that referendum, the country suffered through one of the largest general strikes in its history—the vote was largely seen as a way for the public to register its disapproval of Leopold’s actions during the Nazi occupation of Belgium. (The country surrendered to Germany in 1940 after declining to join Britain and France as a member of the Allied powers.)
Campaign animations, including a throne surrounded by stars and a series of trumpets bearing Belgian flags, also appear to cast the monarchy in a less-than-deferential light, though opinions vary on whether they mock the institution outright. In a separate statement to the BBC, a royal family spokesperson said that the monarchy “would not have given [its] authorization” for the campaign to use any images of Philippe for commercial purposes.”
Representatives for both Burger King and regional parent company Burger Brands Belgium have not yet responded to requests for comment.
French agency Buzzman, which beat out DDB Brussels in a recent pitch, created the campaign.

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@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.