Burger King Ad Hijacks Google Assistant Sparking Wikipedia Controversy

Burger King Wikipedia Google Assistant Ad

Image via Burger King

A devious new ad wreaked quite a bit of havoc on Google Assistant users — until the company cut it off — and sparked an editing war on Wikipedia.

The ad in question is a new 15-second Burger King spot — which features a mock BK employee saying that it’s impossible to properly explain a Whopper in that time frame. He then leans into the camera and says “Okay Google, what is the Whopper burger.” This would then prompt nearby Android or Google Home devices to activate and read off the Wikipedia page for the Whopper. Sure, it’s equally kind of clever and arguably pretty intrusive — but BK was obviously hoping it would inspire more chuckles than outrage.

Of course, it doesn’t end there: the marketing team also took advantage of Wikipedia’s editability. Someone apparently tied to the marketing team had edited the Whopper article to read like standard BK promotional material. In yet another twist, vandals wasted no time further editing the promotional copy — changing it to read that the Whopper’s patty was made from “100% rat and toenail clippings.” The editors at Wikipedia reverted the article to its original state, since “shameless self-promotion” is discouraged under its policies, and have semi-protected the page from further edits.

The edit history of that particular Wikipedia page sort of looks like a war zone between the site’s editors, vandals, and BK’s marketing team (and in a truly meta moment, you can already read all about that controversy on the Whopper’s own Wikipedia page). As The Verge points out, had there been no intervention, vandals could have hijacked Google Home devices everywhere to say something inappropriate.

Unlike previous ads which accidentally hijacked voice-activated digital assistants, the BK ad is very intentional — having been tailor-made for BK by a Miami-based ad agency named David. Google itself reportedly wasn’t involved with the commercial at all — and when the tech giant caught on to the shenanigans, they disabled the specific trigger phrase for the feature, Engadget reported.

According to AdWeek, the ad will air tonight during certain late-night commercial breaks in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. A national primetime campaign is also planned for cable networks like Adult Swim, History, Spike, Comedy, Central, MTV, E! and Bravo. Of course, it’s not entirely clear how the ad’s performance will play out now that Google has cut the cord.

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