7 May 2014

Subservient Chicken returns to Burger King

The Subservient Chicken has a lot to answer for. Largely recognized as the first viral advertising campaign, it sparked the industry’s passion/obsession for viral marketing.

Subservient Chicken was a hokey website, which appeared to deliver a live feed of a man in a chicken suit standing around in a bleak lounge room. The site invited users to type in commands, such as ‘Do the moonwalk’ and the Subservient Chicken would perform these requests. 

Audiences were captivated and began emailing the link to their friends and the site received 20,000 hits in the first week. It was 2004 and this was revolutionary for the ad industry. This campaign was the first to demonstrate that people would share advertising and engage with it if it was really good. 

Subservient Chicken captivated the ad industry and it wasn’t long before marketers everywhere began asking their agencies for a viral, oh how times have changed… (cough). 

So ten years have passed and Burger King has dusted off the old chicken suit and brought back the iconic figure – but does anyone outside of the advertising community really care?  This iconic campaign – created by Crispin, Porter + Bogusky and Barbarian Group – is revered by the industry, but does the public have the same level of nostalgia and love for the chicken? 

Burger King is banking on it, with an online ‘mockumentary’ film titled “Subservient Chicken Redemption: The Other Side of the Road”, which aims to tell the “untold story of Burger King's viral sensation after the internet spotlight faded to black.” 


It’s a classic tale of redemption, it’s bonkers and brilliant all wrapped up in one and it's text book branded entertainment. 

Burger King have thrown it all at this new campaign, crafting a great piece of storytelling around one of the most iconic viral campaigns ever. 

Kicking off with a teaser campaign and print ads in the style of missing posters asking ‘Have you seen this Chicken?’ while online the hastag #FindTheChicken materialised. Visitors to the website SubservientChicken.com were greeted with the Subservient Chicken’s empty lounge room and a Microsoft pop-up message informing users the Chicken was missing.  

With the audience suitably teased, Burger King, launched the spoof film re-introducing the chicken and renaming him Chicken Big King.  But no piece of entertainment happens these days without a tragic back story – cue the emotive music. 

Apparently the last ten years have been tough for the chicken who, after being thrust into the spotlight, has struggled to cope after the fanfare moved on. But, just when he hits rock bottom, his luck changes and he gets his comeback. 

The campaign pokes fun at the emotionally laden back-stories that are so popular with the makers of reality TV shows and their 'stars'. In doing so it speaks directly to a generation that has been reared on this genre of entertainment. 

Much like Subservient Chicken was a direct product of its time, Chicken Redemption is a campaign for our media and reality-TV obsessed times. 

The campaign has captured the media’s attention and buzz for the Chicken is everywhere. The YouTube video has received more than 6 million views since launching a week ago – but will it impact sales? 

Burger King, like many fast food chains, are struggling to boost sales across a range of markets, particularly the US, as they battle against increased competition and healthier options – did someone say Chipotle? 

Chicken has also become a big battle field in the fast food market and the major chains are lining up to win over audiences. Online and social media campaigns dominate this category as the contenders face off to attract young audiences. 

With that in mind, there’s an interesting strategy at play here while this online-only campaign is clearly targeting young consumers in a bid to introduce the Chicken to a whole new audience, it is also looking to reengage older audiences and tap into the nostalgia of the original Subservient Chicken. 

Burger King is the latest brand to go after nostalgia, a theme which has gained serious momentum is recent years in Hollywood movies, TV shows and right across the music industry. It’s only fitting that it now invades our advertising as well. 

So as Subservient Chicken aims to reengage audiences, it will definitely be interesting to see how new audiences respond to the Chicken. 

Burger King have built a fun campaign with wonderful storytelling elements and an extremely weird and quirky tale about a Chicken. 

The strategy is pretty straightforward and the campaign balances the brands heritage of quirky and wacky really well, but it is missing the really revolutionary aspect, which we’ve come to expect: think Whopper Sacrifice. However, there’s plenty more life in this campaign, I think we’ve only just scratched the surface so it will be one to watch. 

I’m keen to see what happens next but I fear the weight of expectation is heavy on this campaign. Obviously Subservient Chicken was hugely successful, which had a lot to do with how innovative, different, and out-of-the-box it was, conversely this campaign, so far, has been text book and fairly predictable. For me the big question is what happens next, can Burger King surprise with something special and revolutionary? 


A wonderful example of branded entertainment, but the next stages of this campaign will determine how innovative Burger King can be? 

3 stars. 

  • Brand: Burger King
  • Creative Companies: David, Code + Theory, Horizon 




16 Sep 2014

So ten years ago Subservient Chicken allowed us to do something that we'd not been able to do before - interact with a brand's communication.

The fun was in the interaction - how much stuff had they crammed in there? I'm REALLY in control?

Ten years later the tech' has moved on and the comms has moved backwards... a bloated 'content' piece that's bought the 'storytelling' bullshit and taken away all of the fun that we had with the chicken in the first place.

Had this led to Dom' Chicken - a chicken that tells you to go screw yourself when you give it an instruction and instead replies with real invective, I'd have loved it. But instead it just sits there, playing on my screen for what seems like hours... a pretty poor 'tease' and a sign of just how much inventiveness we as an industry have lost over the last decade

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