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New Burger King Ad Triggered Google Home Speakers — Until Google Stopped It

Variety logo Variety 4/12/2017 Janko Roettgers
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Burger King unveiled a risky new ad Wednesday that triggered Google’s voice-activated assistant, waking up Android phones, Chrome browsers and Google Home speakers alike. The ad was supposed to air during “Kimmy Kimmel Live” and “The Tonight Show” Wednesday evening, as well as appear on a number of cable networks, including Comedy Central and MTV, according to The Verge.

However, Google put an end to the voice activation Wednesday afternoon, likely by adding a recording of the audio file in question to an internal blacklist — something the company maintains to make sure that its own TV ads don’t trigger its devices, among other reasons.

BurgerKing’s 15-second clip featured a purported store clerk lamenting that the short ad format simply didn’t offer enough time to list all of the ingredients of the Whopper, the company’s signature burger. The actor then motioned the camera to come closer, and said “Okay Google, what is the Whopper Burger?”

That phrasing prompted devices featuring Google’s Assistant to wake up, and search the internet for information about the Whopper. More specifically, Google queried Wikipedia, resulting in Google Home speakers to read the first few lines of Wikipedia’s Whopper page.

Initially, this resulted in Google Home reading a list of Whopper ingredients, which may have been added to the page by a Burger King marketing executive, according to The Verge. Some Wikipedia users apparently didn’t like that the site was used for marketing purposes, and instead proceeded to add ingredients like “cyanide” and a “medium-sized child.”

Wikipedia’s editors quickly removed these things, but eventually also proceeded to get rid of the list of ingredients altogether, replacing it with a more generic description of the product. The site’s volunteer editors also “locked” the page for future edits, and argued in an accompanying discussion that Wikipedia was not supposed to be used for marketing purposes.

This isn’t the first time a smart speaker has been triggered by content airing on TV. Earlier this year, a San Diego news anchor reported about children using Amazon’s Alexa speaker to order products. The report contained the line “Alexa, order me a doll house” — which promptly resulted in unwanted doll house orders among viewers of the show.

Update: 4:10pm: This post was updated throughout after Google blocked the ad from triggering its voice assistant.

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