This week, Burger King is planning to unveil a new TV spot that’s supposed to come off as cheeky and knowing but is actually deeply depressing. “You’re watching a 15-second Burger King ad, which is unfortunately not enough time to explain all of the fresh ingredients in the Whopper sandwich. But I’ve got an idea,” the narrator says with a conspiratorial smirk, standing behind the counter at the burger chain. “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”
That’s it. If you’re an Android user, you know what happens next. “OK Google” is the phrase used to summon the Siri-style voice command service on Google products. If the ad works like it’s supposed to, viewers with phones or Google Home devices situated close to their TVs will then be subjected to a pedantic lectures about fast food hamburgers from their very own gadgets. You might remember a news story from a few months ago about San Diego residents whose Amazon Alexas were accidentally ordered to purchase dollhouses after a local news story about the device, but as the Verge notes, this probably marks the first time a major advertiser has intentionally tried to talk to your voice-activated gadgets through the TV.
Google Home owners might get a chuckle out of the ad at first, but it’s hard to imagine they won’t feel at least a little frustrated with the ploy after the third or forth time they hear their robot assistants rambling about pickles and 100% ground beef. The ad also carries another risk: When you ask a Google Home to tell you what something is, it defaults to reading from the Wikipedia entry, which is editable by anyone with an internet connection.
Burger King knows this, too, and the Verge noticed that brand likely tried to use Wikipedia to its own advantage. Last week, before the ad was announced, the opening of the Whopper article was changed from this suitably impassive sentence: “The Whopper sandwich is the signature hamburger product sold by the international fast-food restaurant chain Burger King and its Australian franchise Hungry Jack’s.” To this sizzling bit of copy: “The Whopper is a burger, consisting of a flame-grilled patty made with 100 percent beef with no preservatives or fillers, topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise, served on a sesame-seed bun.” The user who made the change has the handle Fermachado123–the same username that Burger King marketing executive Fernando Machado uses on social media.
But fast-food bigwigs aren’t the only people with access to Wikipedia. This afternoon, after stories about the ad broke, an editor protected the Whopper article from further changes without approval, citing “persistent disruptive editing.” In other words, trolls were changing the article in hopes that Google Home could be tricked into reading their altered versions of the article instead. We’ve cataloged a few of those edits below.
Things started out subtly. First, a user working from an anonymous IP address changed Machado’s “The Whopper is a burger, consisting of a flame-grilled patty made with 100% beef” line to “consisting of a flame-grilled cow made with 10% beef.” After that, a helpful editor reverted the copy back to its original, pre-Machado state, writing that he or she was “removing marketing designed to run with an upcoming smart-home device hijacking advertisement.” A second editor pitched in to help “eradicate self-promotion,” changing a line that identified the Whopper as the “signature” hamburger of Burger King to read that it is the restaurant’s “worst” burger instead. Shortly after, yet another anonymous editor identified the Whopper as Burger King’s “cancer-causing” burger.
After some back-and-forth about whether or not the Whopper is in fact carcinogenic, another anonymous editor added some short commentary of his or her own: “Introduced in 1957, it has undergone several reformulations including resizing and bread changes, yet it remains far inferior to the Big Mac.” Another editor imported some copy from the Wiki article about the other Whopper: “Whoppers are malted milk balls covered with artificial “chocolatey coating” produced by The Hershey Company.”
From there, another editor wrote that the Whopper is “a juicy 100 percent rat meat and toenail clipping hamburger product.” Finally, an editor named “The ed17” marked the article as protected, meaning that users must obtain approval before making edits. A few curious edits popped up yesterday, just before the ad was announced, claiming the Whopper is made from a “medium-sized child” and topped with cyanide, but other than that, all of the trolling happened within the span of an hour or so this afternoon. Let’s hope at least one Google Home owner watched the commercial during that time.