Anybody remember the Burger wars?

For those of you who don’t, back in the late 1970s, the term first came into use when hamburger fast food chain Burger King began attacking, via aggressive advertising campaigns, its larger rival McDonald’s in order to gain larger market and mind share. Other chains such as Wendy’s and Hardee’s threw their own figurative hats into the “fight” but it as the King and the Clown that that took center stage for years in their advertising tit-for-tat.

Fast forward to present day and the mutual push for market share continues.

And this time, the war has taken a very “scary” turn:

In an awesome bit of PR for Halloween 2018, Burger King played the “troll” and transformed their archrival’s beloved mascot into the stuff of nightmares! (And yes, it did actually scare me – don’t judge!).

The video issued a challenge to its customers to come to their restaurants dressed as a clown. The first 500 people to do so would be rewarded with a free Whopper.1 (Hey, that’s cool…throw in some fries, maybe?)

I must say that Burger King certainly hit the right nerves, linking a common phobia and their chief competitor into a Halloween PR move is a match made in…well…PR heaven.

It’s not restricted to the USA either, because this year, Burger Kings in Denmark and Sweden countries got in on the act as well, and I must say they outdid themselves.2

To participate, you have to go into a Burger King restaurant…and into the bathroom (oh, man) with your cellphone… and utter the phrase “canceled clown” three times. End spoilers.

Now, turn off the lights (really), and watch the video: Canceled Clown ( I dare ya).

See, it’s cool.

And man, has this crazy scary PR stunt been paying off! The media coverage alone has been bonkers! Just a few examples:


AdWeek: Burger King Summons the Ghost of Ronald McDonald in Voice-Activated Bloody Mary Stunt

NY Post: Ronald McDonald appears if you say ‘canceled clown’ in Burger King mirror

CBR: Burger King Summons Ghost of Ronald McDonald to Sell Whoppers

FOX News: Burger King’s Halloween stunt in Sweden has Ronald McDonald-like clown creepily appearing in bathroom mirror

Ad Age: Burger King’s Creepy Halloween Stunt Invites You to Summon Ronald McDonald Like He’s Bloody Mary

While localized to just a couple of countries, the Candyman-themed video alone has easily crossed oceans (because the Internet) and has been shared over and over again across multiple popular websites. (I’ve watched several times myself because I’m a glutton for scares.)

Maybe you can’t walk into your local Burger King and spook yourself, but you can still watch the scary stuff happen.

Burger King got the media attention and participation they wanted, and a dig in on their biggest fast-food rival, all in one!

Active audience participation, a viral video, and massive media coverage – I’d declare it Christmas if it’s wasn’t for the theme.

Now that’s a good PR move, Burger King, scary good!

(And BTW, the term for the irrational fear of clowns is coulrophobia. BOO! 😊)

JOTO PR Disruptors isn’t in the scare business, but we certainly create the kind of PR campaign that would frighten your competition. We have a variety of services that we can tailor to ensure we meet your business goals, from Smart Market Research, content writing, social media management, and much more.

In short, our team of experts can handle every facet of your PR needs, ensuring that through measurable results you achieve the maximum ROI.

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  1. Kershaw, Meg. “8 of the Best Halloween Marketing Campaigns”,,, January 30, 2020
  2. Carman, Tim. “Burger King’s latest dig at McDonald’s: Creepy clowns to haunt your dreams”,,, October 28, 2020