Name: The Subservient Chicken
Year created: 2004
Year abandoned: 2011 [Only minor layout updates from 2005-2011]
If you recall any Burger King commercials from the early 2000’s, you may remember one which featured the “Subservient Chicken”. These ads were created to promote the restaurant’s then-new TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich. The commercial featured a man controlling a person in a chicken suit to obey his every command, leading to the tagline “Chicken the way you like it”. This led to a marketing campaign in the form of website launched in 2004. The site allowed users to control the same person in the chicken suit via webcam.
Created by advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky for BK, the Subservient Chicken was an interactive-cam website idea like no other. Webcams were becoming a more popular and recognizable concept at the time, so the creators and BK wasted no time jumping on the trend.
At first it may appear that the chicken is broadcasting via live webcam, on standby to obey any commands. In actuality, it’s a compilation of pre-recorded videos set up to obey about 400 different commands, making it appear as if it were happening in real-time.
The commands for the chicken range from basics such as “sit” or “dance”, to more specific and complex commands such as “do the splits” and “pee like a dog”. A list of possible commands can be found here and here.
The website quickly became popular, reaching 20 million hits within its first week online. As a marketing campaign, the site successfully promoted the Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich to a point where it eventually began outselling the franchise’s original Chicken Sandwich. BK introduced the Spicy TenderCrisp sandwich a year later and also promoted it with a website, chickenfight.com. Chicken Fight was less interactive and less popular in comparison to The Subservient Chicken, but still made creative use of the web to promote the sandwich.
Whether or not anybody found themselves eating more Burger King than before discovering The Subservient Chicken, its originality still stands out as a unique way to advertise a product.
Since its launch, there were never many updates to the site aside from minor layout tweaks. The chicken and its commands always remained the same. The webcam saw its last days online in 2011, when it was replaced by a new concept in 2014 starring the same chicken.
The chicken is rebranded as the “Chicken Big King”, sharing its name with the same BK sandwich. CBK is the subject of a YouTube video which tells a story of the rise and fall of the chicken’s fame, his life at rock bottom, and his second chance at the spotlight as a chicken who won’t take orders from anybody.
While the new chicken can’t be told to do anything, the old chicken’s site can still be accessed via the Wayback Machine so you can give commands like it’s 2004.
The original website’s concept was truly one of a kind, taking advantage of Web 2.0 culture to appeal to customers using an interactive game. It was original not only for its time, but even by today’s standards. It’s since been replaced by a less interactive concept, but maybe it won’t be long before we see a modernized “Snapchat the chicken” or something more creative and interactive. Time will tell what the next creative web-based campaign will be, whether or not it comes again from BK.
What’s your favourite command for the Subservient Chicken? Share your story in the comments.