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Vegetarians Hunt Down Gourmet Burger Kitchen After Poorly Judged Ad Campaign

It kind of astounds me that, in this day and age, there can still be any debate about the validity of vegetarianism or veganism. For the most part, it's a case of live and let live; the self-styled crusader vegan, who will explode if they don't tell someone about their dietary choices at least once every 5 minutes, represents a startling minority. In fact, vegetarianism and veganism are both on the rise, partially due to the internet, and partially due to the increasingly popularity of meat-free restaurants, especially in big cities.

Taking that into account, Gourmet Burger Kitchen's latest ad campaign becomes even more baffling than it already was. The posters, which have most prominently appeared around the London Underground, are all brazenly anti-vegetarian. One of them, which features an image of a cow, says 'They eat grass so you don't have to', while another one simply says 'You'll always remember when you gave up being a vegetarian'. Why GBK, who do actually have a reasonably good range of veggie burgers in their menu, would decide that it was a good idea to take a shot at the veggie community is beyond me, but unsurprisingly, they've noticed.

The Advertising Standards Authority has been flooded with complaints about the campaign over the past few days, and there's talk of a massive nationwide boycott taking place. As you might expect, this has all been mediated through Twitter, with many enraged vegetarians and vegans tweeting GBK's official account with their complaints. #Gourmetmurderkitchen has also been trending heavily, as many have taken to photoshop to rework the slogans so that they reflect the nastier side of the meat (and particularly beef) farming industry.

Some have taken it even further than that by actually changing the real posters. One in particular, one of the 'You'll always remember...' posters, was changed so that it ends with 'when your customer base realised that eating dead bodies was barbaric'. Why is this making people so angry? Reasons vary, but largely it's because the tone of the ads basically make GBK look like they're picking on a minority. At some point or another, it was socially acceptable to say that veganism was a fad, not anymore. The rising popularity of it is heavily attributed to the ever-increasing awareness of climate change and other environmental concerns, concerns which are very real.

Some have suggested that GBK are doing this because the uptick in meat-free dieting is threatening their business model. If that's true, to put it frankly, they're acting like idiots. There is no rule which suggests that burger restaurants have to adhere to a strictly meat eating market. A burger is just a warm thing in a bun, and as the popularity of GBK-styled restaurants like Byron, Handmade Burger, Five Guys and so forth has climbed, vegetarian burger options have become all the more varied and interesting. Handmade in particular have just as many different kinds of vegetarian burger on their menu as they do beef and chicken, if a particular diet is gaining ground, surely the sensible decision is to appeal to it, not criticise it, even in jest.

The other thing to bear in mind about this whirlwind of disaster is that it's January, which in recent years has been christened 'Veganuary', which in a similar framework to 'Stoptober' encourages people to go without animal products for a month. 2016 has proven to be the most successful year yet for it, which raises the worrying notion that GBK actually intended these ads to coincide with it. It's possible that they saw the negative publicity coming, and that it was all part of a calculated plan to enrage the vegetarian community to get the brand trending on social media. I'd say that's a bit of an extreme hypothesis, though, it's much more likely that they figured people would just take it as a joke and that would be that.

The company released an official statement shortly following the backlash, apologising for the ads and pledging to change them, but also asserting that they were meant to be light-hearted, and that GBK value their veggie clientele. Is the response excessive? Probably, but you have to bear in mind that hardly anyone ever gave up meat on a whim, the reasons are almost always serious in nature. A car company would never dream of marketing a gas guzzler with jokes about people who drive electric cars, or cycle. This might not be a co-ordinated attack on the veggie crowd, but I think we can all agree, it's appalling marketing.

Update: Since the time of writing, the campaign has been pulled and the posters have been removed from their locations on the London Underground.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Vegetarians Hunt Down Gourmet Burger Kitchen After Poorly Judged Ad Campaign Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 Rating: 5

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