Burger Urge: Australian restaurant under fire for using condoms to advertise meat

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Shine On

An Australian burger company has decided to definitively answer the age-old question, "Where's the beef?"

As the Courier Mail reports, Burger Urge, a Brisbane-based meat-and-bun joint, surprised mailbox-havers across the city by delivering condoms with the slogan: "Get intimate with our new premium beef" — a move that has not endeared the restaurant to certain locals.

''We've had a parent complain and say if their child found that in the letterbox that would be concerning," Burger Urge owner Sean Carthew tells the paper.

Also see: Bacon tops the list of most-searched Canadian foods in 2012

Other offended parties proved less tactful, writing in to articulate their disgust at the provocative maneuver.

''Yesterday you put a condom in my mailbox to try and inspire me to eat your burgers? Sorry I think you just lost a big chunk of market share to Grill'd and the local pub. At least they've got some shred of class," read one complaint letter.

As a variation on their sexualized theme, the "Get intimate" campaign also includes an image of a woman licking the muzzle of a bespectacled bovine.

Despite the blowback, however, Carthew says the campaign succeeded in drumming up the publicity his business needs.

''We've got some big franchise competitors and we're a small business. When you just do standard flyer drops, more often than not they just go straight into the bin. We're just trying to be a little bit creative about how we can market."

Also see: Who makes the healthiest peanut butter? Watch our new video series to find out

Except this isn't the first time a food franchise has traversed the well-tread condom route.

Back in 2006, New Zealand's Hell Pizza courted major controversy when the franchise mailed out condoms to promote its "Lust" pizza.

Backlash came from as far up as the Catholic Church, which called the move a "breach of advertising standards," while family groups went as far as to suggest the pizzeria was encouraging children to engage in all sorts of lascivious activity.

"I can see how Hell Pizza would have seen this as a fun and invocative marketing campaign. But it is totally inappropriate and every parent should feel offended at Hell Pizza's blatant disregard of the innocent minds of our children," Tim Sisarich, executive director of lobby group Focus on the Family, told the New Zealand Herald at the time.

Like Hell Pizza, Carthew is hitting back at critics by arguing that the campaign is being ignored for its elements of social responsibility.

"If anything it's promoting a good cause which is safe sex,'' he says. ''People jump up and down like it's an outrage but there are wars going on.''

Also see: World's most expensive Christmas dinner priced at $200,450

Carthew's spin isn't likely to impress Queen's University marketing professor, Kenneth Wong, who told the Toronto Sun last year that the "no such thing as bad publicity" refrain is misleading.

"Any coverage is not good coverage," he said. "If you're thinking that, that tells me, as a business person, you're really desperate."

If Burger Urge's risk has paid off in any way, it appears to be through the mobilization of its loyal fan base.

Commenters on the restaurant's Facebook page have come out in support of the campaign, with one in particular summing up his appreciation.

"Tongue in cheek humour — served best with a rigid no nonsense society. Nice work guys!"

Do you think the condom campaign is out of line or would it draw you to check out the restaurant?