Clever? Sneaky? Or just the modern world?

Screenshot by ZDNet

There are two things you should know about the fast-food business.

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It’s very competitive and it’s done quite well during COVID-19.

For many, the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King represent not only convenience but deep, soothing comfort.

No, it may not be healthy comfort but you can’t have everything, can you?

Still, I was moved by the lengths to which these burger chains will go not only to market their own wares but to divert customers of rival brands.

It seems there are some who are so desperate for a burger that they turn to their navigation tech, in the drive to get their chosen meal as quickly as possible.

Do they know, however, that their wishes might get intercepted?

Here’s the tale of Burger King launching its new Master Burger in France. Yes, of course the chain did lots of research that no doubt declared the Master Burger was the master of all burgers.

Yet the company also involved Google’s Waze in a little underhand subterfuge. As Waze’s own site boasts: “A geomarketing analysis identified the main navigation patterns made by ‘burger super eaters,’ and defined the target audience as drivers within 100m of a selection of OOH [out of home] billboards and within 5km of Burger King restaurants. The campaign also targeted users driving to fast food restaurants.”

So, there you were, Wazing your way toward your nearest Big Mac and up popped Burger King to tempt you.

I’ll never be a burger super eater. But I wonder if, in this era of sudden awakening to privacy, I’d be a little upset that Waze knew I was headed for a McDonald’s and was being paid by Burger King to question my sense of taste.

It seems, too, that this whole doubt-infusion may have worked. Burger King claims that “synching Waze to our OOH campaign in areas over-indexing heavy-burger eaters drove +7% sales of our new Master Burger range.”

This was in addition to Waze revealing: “Burger King stores received a 4.7x navigation lift among drivers who saw both OOH and Waze ads.”

Still, perhaps McDonald’s was only momentarily upset that Waze could have participated in something so devious. I waded through the Waze site to find this headline from the past: “McDonald’s drove more restaurant visits by coupling traditional outdoor media with Waze.”

Nowhere in this case study does it mention that McDonald’s was specifically targeting Burger King-desperates. Moreover, this campaign was in southern California.

The idea, however, was remarkably similar: “Whenever a Wazer passed a McDonald’s billboard, takeovers would pop up to increase awareness and provide turn-by-turn navigation directly to stores.”

But please, this little Waze wheeze was extremely safety conscious. You had to come to a complete stop near a McDonald’s billboard. Only then would your screen be, well, taken over with a McDonald’s ad.

Perhaps many find this sort of advertising delightful. Perhaps it’s a wonderful way for Waze to make a little money.

Still, your navigation tech questioning your decisions seems like a future that’s riven with potential for annoyance.

People might think that they use Waze just to get where they want to go, not for their intentions to be sold and then even questioned.

Oh, what am I saying? It’s flattering that your technology wants only the best for you.

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