German Burger King ad banks on customer confusion between Ronald McDonald and Pennywise

Photo: PhonlamaiPhoto/Daniel Knighton (iStock/Getty)

When did fear of clowns (coulrophobia if you’re fancy) become a thing? Was it after It? John Wayne Gacy? It definitely must have been after the conception of Ronald McDonald, because what international chain would deliberately adopt a universally accepted figure of terror as its spokesman? (Also, have you noticed Ronald’s been keeping really quiet in recent years? Poor guy. We hope he doesn’t have to share his room in the Mascot Retirement Home with the Noid.)

Anyway, Burger King—which, we might add, has no entrant in the Chicken Sandwich Wars of 2019—has, in honor the release of It: Chapter Two, launched a new campaign to capitalize on the coulrophobia of the German people, Ad Age reports. Smartphone users who dare to visit a German McDonald’s will be geotargeted by messages that strongly encourage them to scan an ad in a McDonald’s house magazine that will register them for the MyBK app. And then the MyBK app will tell them to “Avoid the clown” and run, not walk, to the nearest Burger King, where they can buy a Whopper for just one cent. Pennywise!

This isn’t the first time Burger King has capitalized on Pennywise’s unfortunate resemblance to Ronald McDonald. When It came out back in 2017, Ad Age wrote at the time: “Burger King jumped on the popularity of the film with a simple in-theater stunt. After viewers had their fill of horror, BK projected on the screen the simple message: “The moral is .. never trust a clown,” shortly followed by the Burger King logo.”

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Which is really a huge amount of gall from a chain that brought us the Creepy King.

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Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.