Three years ago Albert Paterson went to bed a normal happy man. Everything in his life was going great. He was in line for a promotion. He had a great fiance and had just received a perfect bill of health from his doctor. We know, from what doctors have pieced together, that he dreamed that night of his youth in New Jersey. Playing video games at his local arcade and scarfing down cheeseburgers at Burger King. It was a great night’s sleep. It was also the last night of restful sleep he would ever have. When Albert awoke he was greeted by the plasticized wooden visage of The Burger King – in his bed. So terrified was Albert that he has been unable to speak since the incident. Instead he just sits in his bed – stuck in a childlike trance – chewing on an imaginary burger and cackling madly. Occasionally he looks to his left and smiles nervously. Does he still see the King? No one knows. The incident was recorded and was eventually turned into a famously popular line of commercials.
As we all know “The Paterson Incident” was an early instance of guerrilla marketing gone bad and I agree it sounded like a good idea at the time. Blanket a small town with 1000s of Burger King lookalikes who would sneak into people’s houses and give them free breakfast. I guess they didn’t learn from McDonald’s tragic “Night of 10,000 Clowns”, which almost destroyed Kansas City back in 1977. Of course what happened to Albert was an isolated instance. Most people were happy to wake up to a free breakfast sandwich, no matter how frightening the delivery method. Free is free. Albert’s family was well compensated and he was transferred to a rest facility where he will live out the rest of his life.
Still, I just can’t help but think the whole incident could have been averted if Burger King had stuck with a less frightening spokes-monarch. I talk of course of the original Burger King. Not the magic wielding mustachioed King that skateboarded into our TV in the last 70s, but the adorable animated non-threatening King.
Pretty adorable huh? Well check out this poorly animated gem. He is so adorable if you woke up to him you would scarf down whatever foodstuff he presented and then take a nap, treating him like the talking clean-shaven Teddy Bear he is.
“The Paterson Incident” is a lesson about tragedy that could have been averted if only the consuming public had been more aware of what they were getting into during market testing. Albert himself, had signed off on the new Burger King marketing campaign a few days earlier for forty dollars and a 2 free breakfast sandwiches at Wagner Marketing at the Mill Creek Galleria.. If he had only read the fine print he would have realized that by cashing the check he was allowing the Burger King company the freedom to enter his home and film him for a series of new commercials. Please if you show up to test products at your local mall, think of poor Albert before unleashing another plasticized wooden terror on the world and always read the fine print. We must never forget the lessons of our past or we are doomed to repeat them.