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Burger King's New Ad Will Hijack Your Voice-Activated Speaker

By saying "OK Google" in its new TV ad, Burger King opens a Pandora's box for ads that hijack voice-prompted gadgets.

Posted on April 12, 2017, at 12:02 p.m. ET

Burger King is launching a full-fledged marketing blitz based on triggering voice-activated Google devices, in what could become a grim precedent for TV and radio ads talking directly to voice-activated gadgets like smartphones and Amazon's Echo speakers.

The fast-food company's new TV ad features a person looking directly into the camera and saying "OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?" — which, if everything goes as planned, will trigger Google devices like the Google Home assistant and Android phones that have enabled voice search.

In a demo, the ad prompts a Google Home voice-activated speaker to start reading a description of the Whopper from Wikipedia.

While Google Home is still less popular than Amazon's Echo, the ad "could trigger" other Android devices like smartphones to search for "Whopper," Burger King President José Cil said in an interview with BuzzFeed News.

Just imagine the symphony of machines all telling you about the Whopper at once.

Venessa Wong / BuzzFeed News

Spamming people with search results for flame-broiled burgers is not what Google had in mind with when it launched the device, and the Burger King commercial, which is the work of the ad agency David, was not done in partnership with Google.

"We saw it as a technology to essentially punch through that fourth wall," said Cil, who called it "a cool way to connect directly with our guests."

It raises the grim prospect of more marketers taking advantage of the growing number of voice-activated devices in people's homes. Last month, Google Home owners complained that the "My Day" function, which reads out things like weather, traffic conditions, and calendar appointments for the day, ended up recommending the new film Beauty and the Beast.

Google said in a statement at the time that this was not an ad, but an experimental My Day feature that will "sometimes call out timely content." However, they added, "We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case."

Here's the new ad.

View this video on YouTube

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.