Blog | Hugh Kennedy 02.26.18

How Burger King Nailed Net Neutrality Better than Anyone

For months leading up to the December 2017 repeal of regulations governing U.S. net neutrality – an amorphous concept that essentially means everyone should enjoy the same web access regardless of content or domain – most news media reports began with a lengthy (and equally clumsy) definition segment that rivalled more recent attempts to define cryptocurrency mining or Blockchain.

The sides had long been drawn in the debate, but until Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai entered the scene as an appointee of the current GOP Administration, net neutrality’s repeal never had a champion. In a statement the encapsulates activity across most U.S. federal departments these days, Pai noted that “It is not the job of the government to pick the winners and losers of the Internet.”

The FCC invited public input on the issue, which inspired TV host John Oliver to create a web shortcut ( to cut through the commission’s migraine-inducing commenting progress. In the end, fraud in the voting progress was rampant. The Washington Post reported that 7.5 million comments in support of repealing net neutrality appeared to come from just 45,000 email addresses, which were “all generated by a fake e-mail generator website,” according to FCC Spokesman Brian Hart. Another 400,000 fake emails supporting repeal appealed to originate from a single mailing address in – you guessed it, Russia. In the end, a party line vote sealed net neutrality’s fate.

What happens in times like these, when genuine sentiment runs for an egalitarian rule but big government and big business still appear to win the day? Despite the industry death knells of all things marketing, enter an ad agency, Miami-based David, and their client, Burger King. To date, David had pulled off some funny experiential gags to bring props to this flavor of fast food, even if one spot flamed out spectacularly because it relied too heavily on crowdsourced technology.

All the more reason to highlight their brilliant spoof on a world without net neutrality at a real BK location. Why? Because until this little social experiment, no one genuinely had captured the impact of how internet deregulation might affect ordinary Americans. No one may know what net neutrality’s repeal means as the spot opens, but make the concept visceral in the context of food during a weekday lunch hour and now you’ve got something.

I’m no fan of fast food, but it’s powerfully illuminating to see it literally become slow food. Thing about it. A torrent of information is now flooding past our eyes – important, unimportant, and everything in between – and the people with the most power to extract more money from you to pay for 21st century basics would prefer that you close your eyes, pay up and shut up rather than dig into said information and question the upcharges.

Should people be allowed to pay more to get their fast food faster, or even while it’s still remotely warm? The video lays bare the absurdity of the idea almost before the joke itself runs through once. In the opening sequence, David announces that net neutrality already has been repealed. Joe Citizen’s response: “It was?” Precisely.  

Like it or not, we’ll all be dealing with the expense of ignoring net neutrality sooner or later. For instance, when that first deviously subtle offer from your ISP arrives in your In-box or mail slot, with a headline that will be a variation on “More choices for our valued customers!” In fact, the dystopian future that the spot warns about is already bleeding through into our lives. If you’re an AT&T subscriber, you can stream DirecTV without it counting against your data cap. It’s the same thing as getting your chicken sandwich when you want it, but your Slow Whopper when they want it. All depends on your ability to pay.

The best creative always has had this cultural resonance, whether it equates monopolistic computing to fascism or up-charging internet access to the infringement on a person’s rights to grab a quick bite. And to chalk one up for the common man, several states already are stepping forward to stem the tide of unfairness. Montana’s governor last month signed an executive order that bars state agencies from doing business with ISPs that violate net neutrality. California, New York, Rhode Island and Washington are considering legislate action as well. In this often-complex legal context, it’s nice to see a brand cut through to the bones (and the burger) of the issue.

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