And people are not happy about it.
Voice-controlled smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home are cool devices, allowing users to do all sorts of digital tasks just by saying them aloud. But without voice recognition, anyone can control them, which can be a bit of a quirk as anyone can attest to who’s ever had their party playlist switched up after their friend yelled, “Alexa, play some music that doesn’t suck!” A new advertising campaign from Burger King wants to take advantage of this behavior: The fast food chain will run TV spots that feature a Burger King employee saying, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”
The commercials are supposed to start airing nationwide tonight on networks like History, Comedy Central, and MTV during programming like The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live, according to The Verge. The hope is that by using the “Ok Google” command, the actor in the spot will trigger viewers’ Google Home (or possibly Android) device, causing it to explain what a “Whopper burger” is. Specifically, Google gets this information from Wikipedia, meaning Google Home should automatically start reading the first line of the article.
However, as The Verge points out, using Wikipedia as a source comes with its own set of issues. Even with its stricter editing policy, Wikipedia can still be changed quickly. It appears Burger King may have recently edited the article itself to answer the larger question posed in its ad—what are the ingredients in a Whopper? But apparently the Wikipedia community wasn’t happy with that edit because, currently, the first line of the article has reverted back to the much more mundane explanation, “The Whopper is the signature hamburger product sold by the international fast-food restaurant chain Burger King and its Australian franchise Hungry Jack's.” Of course, pranksters could try to make all sorts of hilarious edits from there, though you’d think at some point Wikipedia would take Burger King out of its misery and simply lock the page.
Another potential pitfall: Some people might not take too kindly to having their Google Home hijacked for BK’s promotional purposes. Though still in its infancy as far as views, the advert is already getting a lot of negative feedback on YouTube, garnering witty comments like “Oh. Hell. No.” and “I have a f***ing iPhone.” However, whether this campaign is smart or too smart for its own good, funny or frustrating, as another YouTuber presciently states, it’ll certainly get people “thinking about whoppers.” Smart speakers may be a hot new gadget, but the old adage that any publicity is good publicity still holds true.
Update 4/13: Google has apparently reprogrammed its Home devices to not be activated by Burger King's ad, however it has not commented on the commercials or the fast food chain's attempt to coerce a marketing stunt from the tech company's relatively new gadget. But according to an interview with the New York Times, Burger King president José Cil defends the ads, saying, “With the onset of consumers buying intelligent system devices and using them at home, we thought this was a good way to make a connection and go directly to guests and tell a story about our product."