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How Burger King’s Fernando Machado gave advertising its baubles back

Technology & Data

How Burger King’s Fernando Machado gave advertising its baubles back


Has the Australian adscape become crippled by conservatism? Too afraid to colour outside the lines? Taking inspiration from Burger King CMO Fernado Machado, Sérgio Brodsky says Australian marketers need a kick in the rear.

Fernando Machado, Burger King’s global CMO, is a beacon of bravery in a landscape dominated by conformists, efficiency-junkies and procurement-tamed marketers. Machado is definitely not alone, but as an industry that’s become famous for challenging assumptions and daring against predefined conventions, marketing and advertising seems to have been disarmed from its ability to shock, entertain and add value all while making money.

Related: Myer’s new Christmas decorations tell you if you’ve been naughty or nice

Machado’s mantra ‘Be afraid. Be very afraid. But do it’ is the call to arms many of us have been longing for. The unspoken truth is that we’re all afraid, but only a few of us are willing to fight it. Besides Nike’s recent acts of bravery (and profit) with Colin Kaepernick and Serena Williams, can you name another… 10, five or three brands that defiantly asserted their positioning in 2018? OK, Burger King. But that’s my point. Who else was able to build the same saliency by taking the chances? Not many.   

Machado’s success is not beginner’s luck. His bold approach has consistently driven his company’s growth for at least five years now, on top of countless awards across the world’s most prestigious circuits. What’s more, the man has been openly sharing his way of working whenever a chance is presented.

As written in the book of Genesis, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” so what are we waiting for? A miracle? Clearly our industry is in bad shape. Have we become stuck in fear? Or sheer laziness to transform?

Australia, and the Melbourne market in particular, have famously waved their conservatism flag. Clearly it has not helped. The Down-Under royalty throne is open for the taking. But before displaying dumb bravery, here’s a little showcase of what King Machado achieved most recently:

The Bullying Jr social experiment:

True. Social experiments have become a bit ‘cookie cutter’, derived from our insane obsession with reality television shows. Most of them not feeling that real… but the confronting situation of choosing to fight against a bullied burger or a bullied child was one that evoked visceral emotions. Punching a burger or witnessing a bullied child will never feel the same again.

Google Home for the Whopper:

Every trend has a counter-trend. Marketers’ infatuation with AI, voice-commanded technologies and other tactical paraphernalia have become a vanilla manifesto against our very own humanity. Bang! The king returns to show the tech giant that there’s still a long way to overcome our analogue ingenuity.  

The Burning Stores:



Nike’s headlines about Kaepernick and Williams’ protest posters were a sensational demonstration of a brand backing its own positioning. Although many confused them with ‘brand purpose’ stunts, that was not the case. Led by a piece of research — that since 1954, more Burger King restaurants have burned down than any other fast-food chain – this was one of the best examples of turning data into enthralling storytelling that also acts as a proof-point of the brand’s ‘Flame Grilled’ positioning.

The method to the madness is what Machado and his agencies branded ‘Hackvertising’, an approach to staying relevant in today’s popular culture that is undeniably working. The subversive take on communications is one that forces marketers to think and be like hackers, that can be defined by the five imperatives:

Define a system to hack: During the It (2017) trailer fever, Burger King made the most of it by creating the ‘Never trust a clown’ campaign – which premiered in German cinemas as an overt slap on Ronald McDonald’s face.

Study it – this is all about understanding category convention to either break the ranks or reinvent rules of engagement. For that to happen, invest on solid hours of research, inside and out the office.  

Insert your brand into the conversation – once you have a hackable topic, moment or event, ensure integrity in the brand’s tone of voice so people know this is your perspective.

Have your lawyers on call – keep an open channel with your lawyers to avoid going too far and turning a brave exercise into a costly one.

Deploy the attack – now that your strategy is defined and ammunition loaded, don’t shy away from actually firing your hacks away.   

The strongest, most generous and proudest of all virtues is true courage. To hide behind efficiency metrics is no longer enough; true effectiveness requires inflammatory ideas, zeitgeist-infused gun powder and a straight finger to pull the trigger against procurement naysayers. At times, this may be a shot in the dark. But that’s the point, embracing ambiguity is the necessary ingredient to risk-taking. Or, as King Machado himself can’t stop proclaiming: Be afraid. Be very Afraid. But do it.

Here’s to a big, bright, boisterous and bold 2019!


Bring on more Brodsky:




Image credit:Andre Benz

Sérgio Brodsky

Sérgio Brodsky (L.LM, MBA) is an internationally experienced brand strategist, a marketing lecturer at RMIT and chairman at The Marketing Academy Alumni. He is passionate about cities and culture and the role of brands and technology in society, an intersection from where he drew inspiration to conceive a radically innovative approach to brand communications, he coined Urban Brand-Utility. Connect with Sérgio on www.sergio-brodsky.com or through his Twitter handle @brandKzarglobal brand strategy and innovation. Follow him on Twitter: brandKzar.

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