Public displays of lethal rejection:

A crown, a clown and a dream for peace—shattered

Burger King took the media world by storm last week after publicly proposing they collaborate with archenemy McDonald’s to raise awareness for this year’s upcoming International Peace Day.

Taking out full-page ads in The New York Times and Chicago Tribune, Burger King suggested the two “end the beef with beef” by debuting a special-edition “McWhopper” burger. A balanced flavor fusion of each franchise’s signature sandwich, the McWhopper would be served in a pop-up shop to support the U.N.’s annual International Peace Day, September 21.

The King’s dream, however, came to a dramatic halt when McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook sassily denied the offer via Facebook.

The official McDonald’s response
The official McDonald’s response

Burger King explained the carefully crafted compromise through detailed media design on the plan’s official site. With the recipe, midway Atlanta location between the two’s headquarters in Miami (BK) and Chicago (McDonald’s), as well as overall shop presentation/merchandising aesthetics, the ceasefire stunt was likely aimed to impact social change using the retailers’ cultural leverages.

That said, McDonald’s emptily suggested they spare the silly burger for collaborative efforts more “meaningful.”

Despite public opinion falling on both sides of the argument, plenty of customers were quick to scold the chain for their decision…or at least, answering tone.

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User comments on the original McDonald’s post

Interestingly enough, the PR stunt also received mixed reviews from industry critics. Some proclaimed it equal parts creative and effective, while others thought it completely missed the mark, shifting focus away from more important cultural issues the franchises face.

Perhaps McDonald’s saw the plea as nothing short of a PR ploy or didn’t appreciate being put so on the spot, but they certainly could have responded in a much more gracious and graceful manner.

Regardless of rival response, framing the plan as an inventive and fun promotional spin for a universally admirable cause almost guaranteed Burger King would come out on top. More or less implying a “we did all the work—all you have to do is say ‘yes’” scenario may have been subtly sinister, but there’s no denying McDonald’s dug their reputation’s own grave.

As if the chain isn’t a contentious gift that keeps on giving, McDonald’s has been no stranger to controversy of late. After insulting Old World tradition this past April with an Italian commercial suggesting all children prefer burgers to pizza, coming off as a pretentious stickler void of humor as well as heart isn’t helping their image either.

At this point, is crisis communication in the form of all-day McMuffins enough to save the day?

Though just as soon as the deal turned dirty, several other restaurants additionally stepped up to the proposal plate. National chains Denny’s, Krystal, Wayback Burgers and Giraffas publicly reached out to Burger King, pledging their collaborative interest for the peace-day occasion. With accompanying newspaper ads and social media posts soon flooding the airwaves, the unexpected burger brigade has brought even more attention to the developing stunt.

So was this part of the fast food titans’ plot all along? Intentions are hard to tell. Had the divisive duo really been in it together, one might think the pre-planned execution would have landed both chains in a positive light.

Per classic PR fashion, fact that the initial collaboration didn’t happen likely made more news than if it had. If everyone’s goal truly was to promote International Peace Day—an occasion now everyone knows about—the mission was collaboratively accomplished.

Evil geniuses or not, Burger King at least has the PR world buzzing.

(Original images in feature image via YouTube and icons ETC)

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