Cannes Lions

The Nightmare King

DAVID, Miami / BURGER KING / 2019

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Case Film






Burger King has built a tradition of celebrating Halloween with our fans around the world as well as launching innovative and unexpected sandwiches for unique promotions, which are remembered for years after the launch is over. By now, our guests look to us to help them celebrate the holiday and anticipate our next special edition sandwich.

For Halloween 2018, Burger King created a new special edition sandwich for Halloween, a sandwich so big and heavy that mixed 3 different proteins (pork, chicken, and beef) all topped with a green bun. The challenge was to create a buzz around the launch, and get young adults talking on social media.


Inspired by the spirit of Halloween, we asked ourselves whether food can have an effect on us beyond the physical realm. Through research, we found a correlation between certain foods and its impact on our emotions and dreams. With a beef patty, chicken, bacon, cheese and a green bun, did our burger have the power to cause nightmares?

To truly make a bold statement, we needed to prove our theory, scientifically. To do so, Burger King embarked in a unique partnership: with the Sleep & Neuro Center from Florida, to conduct a Polysomnography (A.K.A. a sleep study) led by Sleep Specialist Dr. Gabriel Medina. We invited over 100 patients to try the burger before sleeping and then tracked their brain activity, breathing, heart rate, eye and limb movements, etc. over 10 days. The result: “The Nightmare King can increase nightmares by 3.5x times”.


Burger King struggles to connect with the 18-34 year old demographic. Only 66% of young people have been to BK and only 35% consider us a “cool brand”. We needed a campaign that would allow us to engage and attract the attention of this core demographic, something controversial to get them talking that would capture our brand tone and drive sales. Above all our Halloween campaign would need to appeal to them in a relevant way.

People are spending more on Halloween, and seeking more thrilling experiences, with 21% dedicating a budget for the thrill of being scared in a haunted house (Statista). Our answer was clear, we needed to created an experience with the power to scare. Once we were able to prove that our burger could cause nightmares, we made a bold provocation to our target, are you brave enough to try this burger and see what happens?


The first step was to partner with the Sleep & Neuro Center to design the metrics and protocols to conduct the Polysomnography. Then we recruited the patients and during 10 nights measured their sleep patterns after eating the sandwich.

The second step was to give the sandwich an appropriate name. After the research results, it was christened the Nightmare King, accompanied by the tagline ‘Feed your nightmares’.

The campaign included a social video showcasing the brand activation, with real people experiencing the sleep study, and telling us the real nightmares they had during the experiment. And based on the nightmares collected in the study, we created posters that represented those nightmares, which were used as in store promotion materials for the launch of the Nightmare King in restaurants all over the world.

This campaign was also the first time a clinical study was published by a fast food restaurant.


After being dared to ‘Feed your nightmares’, a lot of people accepted the challenge, and the Nightmare King sold out in 2 weeks, despite the warnings we gave on our campaign of the risk of nightmares. The campaign reached 4 billion global impressions, $40 million USD in earned media, and with an 89% positive sentiment for the spot, for a scary sandwich we warned people not to try.

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