Jan 27 2018

Whopper Neutrality

Of the big two burger chains, McDonalds and Burger King, I must confess I have a preference for Burger King even though they both have creepy mascots (c’mon, The King is like the creepiest ever and Ronald is a clown).

While McDonalds has superior fries (because they cook them in beef tallow) flame broiling is no joke and the Burger King burgers taste better no matter what size you order. McDonalds “Special Sauce” is basically Mayonnaise and Ketchup and for me it doesn’t work, I ask them to ditch it. Speaking of condiment customization that’s always been a feature at Burger King and McDonalds strongly prefers you accept the default crap (it is one way to get a fresh burger though).

One recent menu addition that I have to give Burger King credit for is the Hot Dog. I have craved those for years. I went out special just to have one right after they were introduced and they’re not bad. If you want Oscar Meyer bologna on a stick, well, they’re not that though they are mild. My taste runs more to Nathan’s as a national brand and Hummel, a local, is even better. When I visit the City (there is only one) I’ll have Sabretts. I like mine with Ketchup (I know, and I don’t care), Brown Mustard (Guldens is best), and chopped Onions (Sweet or Bermuda).

No relish please. Too sweet.

Now McDonalds is marketing itself as Starbucks with meat but if I want good coffee I’ll go to Dunkin Donuts and grab myself a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Croissant to go with that. If I want a really tasty burger nothing better than Wendy’s and they have lemonade. Canada? You have Tim Horton’s (coffee sucks but scrambled eggs instead of a hockey puck is nice) and you have A&W which I will drive a half hour out of my way to find because those frosty mugs are so cool.

All of these are road food of course, the kind you get when you need to pee, gas up, and stretch; when I’m actually somewhere I prefer to discover some nice local non chain place and I almost always find it an interesting and rewarding experience.

Burger King? Well, their ads have always been kind of wacky. Here’s one they dropped Wednesday-

Yes, that is them talking about Net Neutrality, and in kind of an interesting and coherent way.

Why are they doing that, how does it relate to their corporate branding?

I don’t know.

But Net Neutrality is very important because the alternative is Monopolistic Extortion at best and flat out Corporate Censorship at worst. The next time you get in a debate with someone about its desirability (not likely, it has 80% approval) you might want to trot this little YouTube out and educate them.

Why is Burger King better at explaining net neutrality than the FCC?
by Nicole Karlis, Salon

The scenes are filmed reality-TV style, and a title at the end explains that the customers are real people, not actors. Naturally, customers become increasingly aggrieved at the wait times and the inequity over whose Whopper gets delivered first.

“Burger King corporation believes that they can sell more and make more money selling chicken sandwiches and chicken fries, so now they’re slowing down the access to the Whopper” one of the employee-actors says.

Customers in the ad call the system a “bad dream” and “worst thing I’ve ever heard of.”

At the end, Burger King interviews the customers. Some admit surprise at how much they learned about net neutrality through their experience trying to buy a Whopper.

“A Whopper taught me about net neutrality. It’s stupid, but true,” one says.

“I didn’t think that ordering a Whopper would really open my eyes up to net neutrality,” says another customer.

It’s unclear which parts of the ad were staged and which ones weren’t, or whether more informed customers were edited out. Still, the ad exemplifies the degree to which many Americans are uninformed about internet access politics.

Net neutrality advocacy has been ongoing since the Obama administration passed an order that classified the Internet as a Title II entity under the Communications Acts. That move established restrictions for Internet providers that inhibited them from blocking content, accessing content, and throttling Internet content — meaning when Internet Service Providers intentionally slow (or speed) a specific Internet service. As President Obama explained a few years ago, “no service should be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee.”

Once incumbent President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has regulatory power over communication media like the internet, Pai made it the FCC’s priority to reverse Obama’s net neutrality rules. In his proposal, net neutrality regulations would essentially become obsolete. The vote passed to repeal them 3-2 along party lines on Dec. 14.

The current Trump-era FCC pushed an anti–net neutrality agenda from the beginning, despite widespread (and ongoing) public opposition to repealing net neutrality. Commissioner Pai made a video that purported to “explain net neutrality” in December. The video, which was widely derided as condescending and insulting to the American public, poked fun at Millennials and typified them as ignorant, while highlighting how Internet users would still be able to “[Insta]gram their food” and “stay part of their favorite fandom.” It was also released on the day of the vote. Pai’s video didn’t explain how repealing net neutrality would change Internet pricing packages, mention throttling, or any of the real concerns experts had been raising before the vote.

It is odd that Burger King of all companies is engaged in educating the public on what net neutrality is, and the implications of the December FCC vote. But if the government isn’t going to take activists’ concerns seriously, at least somebody else is — even if that somebody is the marketing team of a major fast food chain.