Burger King, Twitch and understanding online communities

Thought Leadership
Burger King came under fire this week for an ill-advised campaign that saw it hijacking Twitch streams with ad messages in exchange for small donations. Drawing on lessons from our Twitch campaign with Uber Eats earlier this year, UK Executive Creative Director Gareth Leeding and Senior Editor Brett Phipps look at what went wrong, and how brands can get platforms like Twitch right.

Usually the darling of the marketing world due to its clever print ads, Burger King apparently has a lot to learn about gaming. This week, it sent Twitch users into furious tirades against the brand, and accusations of being “scummy” and exploitative. 

Brands often look at rising platforms like Twitch and assume it’s somewhere that’s rife for experimentation. But in fact, it’s often the opposite that’s true. To succeed on Twitch, marketers need a much deeper understanding of its nuances than mainstream platforms. 

Here are a few pointers for brands looking to learn some lessons from this work. 

Understand that online communities have their own rules  
The campaign is reminiscent of North Face’s Wikipedia hack last year. Like that, it failed to grasp the rules and nuances of the platform’s community. As our Global CEO Nathan Mcdonald wrote at the time: “All communities – whether online or not – have their own values, behavioural norms and in some cases, explicit rules. Marketers who don’t respect these rules and values can, rightly, expect to be treated harshly.” 

In this case, Burger King didn’t appreciate that Twitch is a space where many users pay specifically to not see ads, by subscribing to each streamer. 

Get the gatekeepers on side  
Getting those with the power – the influencers – on board is important in most aspects of marketing, but vital on Twitch. One of the oldest rules of influencer marketing is that to be authentic it needs to be collaborative. Dictating terms to influencers goes down badly, and unknowingly fooling them into having your ads read out for pittance during their stream is another level of poor judgement. Which brings us to the next point… 

Don’t be cheap 
One of the celebrations of this campaign from the brand and agency’s side was how the ‘ads’ were placed at such a low cost – the value of Burger King’s ‘best offers’. Some expert Twitch streamers can make a decent living from their work, but many others are not pulling in a huge amount of money. Whereas Burger King is a multinational company with a lot of dosh. Capitalising on an audience that someone else has worked hard to build for as little cash as you can get away with is not going to endear you to the community. Don’t use people; collaborate and pay them what they’re worth. 


Understanding rising platforms and how to play on them as a brand can be tough. Want to know how to get Twitch right? Read our piece here which covers the functionalities, ad options, challenges and opportunities on the platform.