A Real Whopper? NASCAR's Stewart to take live polygraph test in ad
The company's got a new online ad campaign that's playing on the questionable truthfulness of celebrity endorsements. How many times have you questioned whether the stars really enjoy the products they're hawking?
To help assuage doubts, Tony Stewart, the NASCAR driver and more recent Burger King pitchman, will take a polygraph test in a live online spot scheduled to air on Oct. 20. As the ad copy says, "Tony Stewart says he loves the Whopper, and he's taking a polygraph to prove it."
It's a clever use of the niggling doubt many consumers feel when they see a celebrity endorsing a product. After years of celebrities badmouthing or dumping the products they're purporting to endorse (remember Nancy Kerrigan in 1994 saying in the parade at Disney World that her sponsor was "dumb"?), consumers may be increasingly immune to a celebrity's stamp of approval. Indeed, a 2007 study found celebrity endorsements were less effective than those from ordinary people.
Given the increased cynicism of consumers, Burger King's appointment ad may work by pulling in consumers with its combination of humor and appointment viewing. Officials at Burger King weren't immediately available to talk about the campaign's popularity so far. (Update: Officials have now replied that "The company is confident the online ad will be hit, based on the response it's seen so far, said Cindy Syracuse, senior director of cultural marketing, in an email. She added that while Stewart will be tested by a licensed polygraph expert, traditional tests last several hours, rather than the one-hour test that Stewart will endure.")
But it's not the first time polygraph tests have been used in advertisements. In 1938, polygraph inventor William Moulton Marston appeared in a Gillette ad which claimed a polygraph proved Gillette razors outperformed its competitors.
And if Stewart fails the polygraph? What happens if it turns out he actually doesn't like Whoppers? Well, as the fine print on Burger King's site says, "This won't be an official test. It's just for fun."