Update 4/13 9:15 a.m.: Google, which was not involved in development of this Burger King ad, has put an end to this advertising experiment. The Verge reports: “Google Home will no longer respond when prompted by the specific Burger King commercial that asks ‘What is the Whopper burger?’ It does, however, still respond with the top result from Wikipedia when someone else (i.e., a real user) other than the advertisement asks the same question. Google has likely registered the sound clip from the ad to disable unwanted Home triggers, as it does with its own Google Home commercials.”
Burger King’s newest television commercial features a Brave New World of ad “interactivity” that most viewers will likely find obnoxious at best, weirdly invasive at worst. In the new commercials, meant to give consumers more information about one of America’s most popular fast-food burgers, an onscreen actor breaks the fourth wall, telling the TV viewer: “You’re watching a 15-second Burger King ad, which is unfortunately not enough time to explain all the fresh ingredients in the Whopper sandwich.”
Then, the actor says the magic words: “Okay, Google.” Viewers who own a Google Home device, which is a competitor of Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), will then be treated to a totally not-asked-for reading of the top search result for a search of “Whopper Sandwich.” That, according to the agency behind the ad, is the burger’s Wikipedia page. (A Google search for the phrase displays links to Burger King’s official Whopper pages ahead of Wikipedia, but presumably Google Home prefers the more unbiased opinion of the latter.)
Burger King is not the first brand to make use of these digital assistants and their voice-activated powers, though it’s unclear whether consumers appreciate the novelty or hate the interruption. It sounds like it could get annoying after the first instance, and could even backfire on Burger King: Presumably the TV will continue playing while Google Home is talking about the Whopper (a spokesperson did not respond to a request for clarification), producing a cacophony of indistinguishable words.
The other problem is that if someone edits the Wikipedia page, Google Home will read whatever information is currently displayed on that page. Even if it’s inaccurate, as the Verge reported.
But also, do we really even need this level of invasiveness? The conceit reminds us a little bit of that scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Mike Teevee is sucked into the television set. Except, without chocolate or Smell-O-Vision.
Fortunately, there’s a way to turn this capability off. According to Wired, users can turn off the microphone while watching TV, preventing the device from waking up when it hears “Okay, Google.”