BK’s Whopper Sacrifice: Clever But Flawed

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In the circle I run in, throwing one’s associates through the front window of a public establishment would be considered uncouth. That’s doubly true if the supposed gain from such an act is a sandwich. Triply so if said sandwich is “quick-serve,” in the new parlance.

However I’ve gradually come to accept that my circle is rarified and a whole lot more couth than the general population, and so I’ll agree with all the people saying Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice app on Facebook is very smart. The concept is simple. Creatives at Crispin Porter + Bogusky working on the BK account were remarking on the sheer number of distant acquaintances and in some cases complete strangers who had found their way onto their friend lists. They decided they could provide a service, and maybe a laugh or two, by giving Facebook users a way to cut the fat, so to speak. So they created an app that facilitated the removal of those fake friends, and then promised to pack the fat back on, in the form of a free Whopper offer for anyone who savages 10 of their so-called friends. The app’s tagline: “You like your friends. But you love the Whopper.”

As clever as I think this is, I see some problems with Whopper Sacrifice. First, when you off someone on your friend list, that person is told about it, as is your whole group of frineds. (“Jchn sacrificed John Whitmore for a free Whopper”). That’s not true if you simply remove them the normal way. I know from many conversations that a lot of Facebook users live in fear that any fake friends removed from their friends list will somehow be told of the action. When I tell people that’s not actually the case, they’re always visibly relieved. If you tell the victim they’ve been deleted, as the BK app does, then you’re creating a disincentive for decent-hearted people to delete them. However early use of the app suggests it’ll be a hit. As of this writing, Whopper Sacrifice has been installed over 30,000 times, and 53,080 friends have been sacrificed. That’s somewhere north of 5,000 free Whoppers.

Second, and this is the flip side of the “notice” coin, it strikes me there’s potential for bullying here. The removal of any friend by Whopper Sacrifice will be broadcast to the news feed of the user doing the removing, and hence be read by any of his or her friends. Many of these will also be familiar with the victim. In other words, in the hands of mean-spirited social networkers (read: high schoolers) it could be a mechanism for cruetly and ostracization.

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