Video Marketing Showdown: McDonald’s v. Burger King

It’s a tale as old as time: the Big Mac versus the Whopper, Ronald McDonald versus the King™.

Since their beginnings, both McDonald’s and Burger King have remained at the top of the fast food burger hierarchy. And with both fast food franchises launching within just a couple of years of each other – Burger King in 1953 and McDonald’s in 1955 – this fast food burger war has been in full force for well over half a century.

But while the goal of the war has remained the same – to win over the most customers – the tactics have evolved. As video marketing has grown, it has become more and more essential for top companies to create strong video marketing strategies to win over consumers.

While both companies have made a splash or two in the video marketing world with their ads, we’ve decided to take a closer look at McDonald’s and Burger King’s video marketing strategies to see who is currently coming out on top. Gear up for the showdown.

McDonald’s Current Strategy

Today, McDonald’s has embraced various social media platforms in their video marketing strategy. In 2015 they launched a “Choose Lovin” campaign on Snapchat that preempted a national television campaign. More recently they launched a series of 10 second ads on Snapchat with the goal of hiring 250,000 new employees. This use of Snapchat for advertising and recruiting purposes allows McDonald’s to reach new customer bases and to grow their current ones.

McDonald’s current active advertisements on TV and Youtube include the ‘Nothing Comes before Coffee’ ads, as well as the ‘Buttermilk Crispy Tenders Grandma’ ads. McDonald’s also includes shorter versions of these second set of ads on their Twitter account with the hashtag: #ButtermilkCrispyTenders.

While these commercials aren’t bad, there’s nothing especially attention-grabbing about them. Even though they are meant to be comedic, they’re not funny enough to make a lasting impact. Although I will give some props to the way the older man says, “did we getcha?” towards the end of the spot.


Again, just like with the ‘Nothing Comes before Coffee’ ads, these also fall a little short of ‘funny.’ They’re not terrible, they’re just not memorable enough, especially when pitted against other major fast food chains. 

In addition to these commercials, McDonald’s has also been known to partner with current kids movies or TV shows as a part of their marketing strategy. They include toys from the movie or show in their Happy Meals and then base commercial ads on these partnerships. Their current commercials that incorporate this strategy include the LEGO movie commercials and the My Little Pony ads.

What does McDonald’s do well?

Integrating partnerships with kids movies and TV shows into their video marketing strategy has allowed McDonald’s to remain the top preference for young children, as well as for the parents of those children. They’ve consistently and successfully branded themselves as a family-friendly restaurant.

In fact, McDonald’s video marketing strategy has always helped them maintain strong brand awareness. The yellow-arched ‘M’ and catchy “ba da ba ba ba” jingle are both thoroughly recognizable and integral to their brand recognition. In addition, McDonald’s has also been able to maintain a considerably positive consumer perception of their brand, with average perception steadily increasing over the last few years. It’s clear that with the help of their various video marketing strategies, consumers still seem to be ‘lovin’ it.’

What are their pitfalls?

Even though their brand awareness is still strong, their current active ads aren’t as memorable or as creative as they have been in the past. They lack an emotional backbone, a story to follow – something that demands the viewer pay attention to them.

And while they have taken the leap into video advertising on social media platforms, they would benefit by taking this strategy even further. According to a study from MediaKix, the average person will spend over 5 years of their lives scrolling through social media. (Yes, over 5 years!) This means there is a lot of opportunity for companies to grab the attention of their target audience through these platforms.


Now let’s take a look at Burger King.


Burger King’s Current Strategy

In recent years Burger King has decided to emphasize the ‘flame-grilled’ characteristic of their burgers in advertisements. This has inspired their recent ‘flame-grilled Whopper comparison commercials.’ In these commercials they compare burgers that are flame-grilled to burgers cooked on a flat top stove.

This commercial starts off slow and grabs the viewer’s attention halfway through when the music starts playing. However, at this point the viewer has pretty much missed the message Burger King is trying to convey about the flame-grilled burgers. Here, Burger King should work on trying to hook the viewer from the start.

In addition to their ‘flame-grilled burgers’ commercials, they have also developed a series of commercials advertising their spicy chicken nuggets – one of which includes a rendition of ‘Ice Ice Baby’ turned into ‘Spice Spice Baby.’

Now this commercial does a decent job of grabbing the viewer’s attention from the start. With ‘Spice Spice Baby’ playing immediately over a close up shot of the Burger King™, it’s likely that the viewer will at least give this commercial a second glance. 

Burger King’s Google Homes Ad

Burger King made some noise in the advertisement world with their controversial “What is the Whopper Burger?” commercial earlier this year. In the TV ad, a Burger King employee notes that he doesn’t have enough time to explain what a Whopper is before leaning closer to the camera and saying, “Okay Google, what is the Whopper Burger?”.

The ad is meant to trigger consumers’ own Google Home’s devices to read the first line of the ‘Whopper Burger’ Wikipedia page. While this is an interesting concept, it was called out for being invasive and for not involving Google in the process. It also involved a lot of trust on Burger King’s part that nobody would edit the ‘Whopper Burger’ Wikipedia page to say something…unpleasant. (Spoiler alert: people edited the Wikipedia page.)

Needless to say, they pulled the ad. 

What does Burger King do well?

Burger King is able to consistently create comical content. Their video advertisements successfully mix in random humor and witty dialogue, and they’ve been able to incorporate this humor throughout their entire advertising strategy.

Moreover, while their Google Homes Ad may have missed the mark, they at least get some points for taking risks. Burger King is aware of changing technology and evolving social platforms, and they’re attempting to adapt their video marketing strategy to play to these changes.

Not to mention, they’re creative. Their ads stand out. Regardless of whether or not their ads motivate audiences to get up and go purchase a ‘flame-grilled’ whopper, they at least make a consumer look twice when they hear a rendition of ‘Spice Spice Baby.’ In fact, Burger King was named as this year’s Cannes Lions Festival’s creative marketer of the year. So congratulations, Burger King.

What are their pitfalls?

While Burger King gets points for humor and innovation, in comparison to McDonald’s they lose points for slightly muddled branding. Amidst all of their creativity, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent message. Do you know what Burger King’s official slogan is? I’m not sure I do. Also, I’m not entirely convinced that pushing the ‘flame-grilled’ feature of their burgers is what will truly gain consumers’ loyalty.

On top of that, they haven’t taken too much advantage of social media platforms for creative video advertisements at all. And of course, their most recent advertisement that took off in the media (the “What is the Whopper Burger” ad) took off for negative reasons. Not all viral videos foster positive attention. They annoyed some consumers by triggering their in-home devices and most likely took a small hit in consumer perception for it.

Final Verdict

So who comes out on top in this showdown between video marketing strategies? McDonald’s marketing has the more consistent branding, but Burger King has stronger humor and more creative commercial advertisements.

It’s a close fight, but I’d say Burger King TKO’ed itself with their Google Homes ad. Especially because they overlooked that anyone can edit a Wikipedia page. I could go edit the ‘Whopper Burger’ Wikipedia page right now so that it starts off with: “The Big Mac is better.” Then what, Burger King?

And in the end, strong branding and consumer perception are essential for a company’s success. So congratulations, McDonald’s – and better luck next time, Burger King. 

Updated on February 10, 2020.

Dana High, Marketing and Communications at Green Buzz Agency. Emily Herman contributed to this post.