Twitch-style game streaming is still fairly young as a medium, so there are still lots of ways to innovate…and lots of ways that innovation can go wrong. Take a recent Burger King campaign, for example: it donated $3-5 to game streamers on Twitch, which then played out a text-to-speech ad for the fast food chain’s burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets.
In the words of one Review Geek writer: gross.
The campaign is the brainchild of advertising agency Ogilvy, which proudly showed off the results on social media. Game streamers, their faces and voices disguised in this promo video, react with confusion and apparent frustration as they get alerts for donations that instantly become robo-voiced Burger King ads.
Title: The King of Stream
Client: Burger King
Burger King turned Twitch's donation feature into a marketing campaign.
— Ogilvy (@Ogilvy) August 18, 2020
A few thanked Burger King for the money (as is customary on Twitch), but one notable unwilling participant exclaimed, “Are you gonna sponsor me or not? …Thanks for the five.” Another said, “Yo, King, the donations are ****ing weird.”
Automatically sending out text-to-speech messages with donations on a live stream isn’t a built-in feature for Twitch, it’s part of Streamlabs, a series of ad-on tools specifically designed to help game streamers manage their videos and audiences. Streamlabs has a “Spam Security” slider on the text-to-speech tool, but that only limits the length of the message, not the content of the message itself.
Oglivy is clearly pleased with itself for its discovery of a way to use the Streamlabs Twitch tools in a way that was never intended, given the self-congratulatory nature of the promo video. But the fact that it blurred out streamers’ faces and voices shows that it knows using their images for promotion (possibly without asking) is less than kosher.
Response from social media has been notably negative. Oglivy’s promotional tweet is “ratioed,” meaning it has more replies than likes. Twitch streamer TempestInATeacup said on Twitter, “Man this is exploitative as hell… This is a multimillion dollar company, if you’re going to advertise in such a predatory way at least pay more than $5.” Self-described “marketing guy” Hunter Bond said, “Some days I wonder if I do good marketing. This is one of the days I am really sure I don’t do bad marketing.”
It’s unclear if this campaign will start a trend—brands are desperate to get into areas of gaming and streaming that are as-yet unexploited, as demonstrated by the rapid blitz for Fall Guys promotional skins. It seems likely that Streamlabs and/or Twitch will either try to find a way to block this kind of behavior…or embrace it and monetize it, possibly in a less-gross way.