Gourmet Burger Kitchen pulls anti-vegan ads after social media backlash

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Gourmet Burger Kitchen sparked controversy this week after a series of poster ads in London led to a social media backlash for criticising vegetarians.

Case study summary:

  • Burger chain campaign posters run provocative anti-vegetarian messages in London
  • Ads trigger social media backlash with hashtag #GourmetMurderKitchen
  • GBK pulls ads after mass outcry and alienating vegetarian customers
  • Other burger chains capitalise on topical 'Veganuary' event, getting positive social media sentiment

  • The camapign

    The burger chain’s latest campaign featured three posters showing a picture of a young cow and their burgers.

    The captions read:

    "They eat grass so you don’t have to."
    "You always remember the time you gave up being vegetarian."
    "Vegetarians, resistance is futile."

    GBK were inundated with complaints, as were the Advertising Standards Agency, forcing the company to backtrack and pull the ads after just two days.

    The controversy

    The burger chain was accused, among other things, of picking on a minority group. Indeed, they appeared to be as unaware of the legal status of Veganism as a protected belief under equality laws as they were about the size and strength of the vegan community.

    Thousands upon thousands took to social media to show their outrage. The parody #gourmetmurderkitchen even started trending on Twitter.

    The results

    The extent of the vegan community’s displeasure was covered by some news outlets this morning. GBK responded by confirming that they were taking down the ads and withdrawing the campaign.

    Jasmijn de Boo, CEO of The Vegan Society, said: “What a wonderful example of the power of the people to change things. They spotted an injustice, and made their voices heard. GBK had no choice but to listen and react.

    “GBK has shown itself to be totally out of touch. These outdated and highly offensive ads were completely misjudged and smacked of both naivety and ignorance. Were they not aware of the growth of the vegan movement?

    "If they wanted to bring in new custom to boost a slow January, they ought to have embraced Veganuary rather than alienate a growing section of society and offered some more vegan options.

    That's what their competitors, Handmade Burger Co, have done this month (see sample retweet below):

    "The vegan movement in the UK is growing at such a fast rate. Many thousands go vegan every month as people find out about true realities of animal agriculture, and become more aware of the damage meat and dairy products do to their health and the environment.”

    Speaking to marketing news site The Drum, a GBK spokesperson said: "Our new adverts have purely light-hearted intentions and were not meant to cause any offense. We've been serving beef as a core part of our menu for the last 15 years and whist we’re carnivores at heart, we have an extensive range of vegetarian options available.

    "We value our vegetarian customers and their views, and have therefore made the decision to change some of our ads."

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