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Fast Food FAILS: Ads vs Reality

So, I went to some fast food places (I won’t say “restaurants”, just “places”), and picked up burgers & tacos, so I could compare them with the ads (I love little projects like this.)

I brought the “food” home (different stuff over 3 nights), tossed it into my photography studio, and did some ad-style shoots (with pictures of the official ads on my computer next to me, so I could match the lighting, angles etc).

Needless to say, the results of my little project were unsurprising… which shouldn’t be a surprise.

(A guest post by Dario D.)

Don’t ask me how this advertising is legal. It seems that the law – at least in the US – is sometimes designed to please the God of  Technicality (who I imagine as a big, super-angry robot, who demands absolute conformity to rules and formulas), while blatantly insulting man’s ability to perceive and judge. The law for this stuff should take into account things like the “innards-to-bun ratio” (in other words, if the ads show 70% innards, 30% buns, the real thing can’t be 10% innards, 90% buns), or, better yet, whether or not something is false advertising should be determined by an ordinary group of people.

In all cases, I gave the items as fair a chance as absolutely possible, though I didn’t take the time to buy multiples of anything except the tacos (whether that would’ve been to choose the BEST stuff I could find, or pick out an average). …though, you know,  that Whopper really is from Hell. I want to leave it, just so that the Burger King people can enjoy a little, what, maybe disappointment?

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What do you think?

  • PinkPanda6

    thaaaaaank yooouuuu! this reminds me of the dominoes pizza commercials, where you send in the pics. if fast food companies actually want their products to look good, maybe they should hire people with ocd to prepare the food. it might not be, you know, actually FAST anymore, but it would actually look more like food.

  • AJSzilagyi

    i agree it’s overdone a lot, but at taco bell i have gotten tacos that look similar to the add

  • Jack

    Hey, this is off topic, but how do you get your taskbar on all 3 of your screens in extend mode???

  • 0rangeoctopus

    God this is so true! I’ve NEVER gotten anything even remotely close to the ad.

  • matt-murdock

    in german.. but the pictures dont need explications…


  • Will Foster

    Dude, that’s so epic. Makes me want to spend a little more for lunch. Especially after seeing the detailed nutrition facts on the tray the last time eating there. Way too much sodium and fat calories. No wonder america is fat! :-|

    Great concept and photos, good work!

  • seabury

    The whopper is horrifically measley in comparison to the Big Mac (which looks the most like the photos of all items tested).

  • Kibbitz

    Man, that is one ugly Whopper. Fortunately, I get nicer ones IRL, though none of them ever look as nice as the photos. However, I’ve always felt that the Whopper pictures for BK have always been too artificial.

  • AC

    Wondering how this is legal? A guy in marketing for a well known sandwich company once told me the secret. The sandwiches you see have the same amount of food, it’s just that the ones in the photographs have all of the ingredients and and bread piled onto one side. There are folks who make their whole living this way called food photographers.

  • Renderit1

    Do one of the Jack in the Box Burger Bites VERY disappointed when they just came out. even the classic Double Bacon Cheeseburger. BLAH

  • The Foodologist

    This post is epic. The photography is great and it highlights in a plain way everything we’ve ever known about fast food companies. The whopper and and jack in the box tacos are the most shameful of all. I wonder if anyone from these companies will see it and if they do, will they do anything about it?

  • Alex

    While fully agreeing with the post above, oddly – i got a Domino’s flyer in the mail today and the photo said above it “not a professional photo, this picture was taken at our Longmont branch”

    Its not just the fast food guys that cheat. having worked for the nations leading foodservice companies, i can assure you most restaurants *cough* exxagerate their product shots for web and print graphics – hell, even my employers paid ‘food stylists” to make the food look better than it is for catalogs etc…

    Lastly – while it might not look as good as their photo – i have to fess up and say that a Big mac is damn tasty no matter which picture = i’m almost salivating ;)

  • Alex

    I’m 14 and I’ve worked at Burger King for a few months, so obviously I’ve seen a lot of Whoppers. While I admit they don’t look like they do in the advertisement, they definitely do not look like the picture of an “actual Whopper.” At least not at the Burger King I work at.

  • Tara

    When I was in highschool we watched a video about this sort of thing. And sometimes the “food” used in the ads aren’t even edible. Sometimes they’re just made from various types of clay to resemble a good looking meal.
    Sadly…this fake food is what brings in the customers.

  • shanna

    but its the same as anti aging cream used on a “photoshopped chick” and make up to cover “blemishes” when infact they are just photoshopped to perfection…it is false advertising and we my friend are the suckas….dam i feel like a burger now :)

  • Puff

    I heard somewhere recently that apparently it’s by law that the companies HAVE to show all the ingredients in said product for advertising, so customers know what they are getting. I think it’s true, because if you look at the ad photos of the burgers, they show all the ingredients (in a presentable manner!).

  • All The Buttons

    Can anybody tell me what’s wrong with this picture?

  • JGC

    I do food photography for various restaurants. I can tell you why the pics differ..

    The lighting and angle are obvious, the Big Mac comparisons are not the same plane as the “real” burger’s photo at all.

    When styling the burgers for the shoot, we want to show the ingredients so we pull this out, move that back, drag it around so it looks good at the shot’s perspective.. I can tell you that sometimes, looking at the sandwich NOT through the lens, it looks odd even messy, but in the lens it looks way better.

    Another reason is that the food for the shoot is usually made by the executive chef earning probably $50 -$60 thousand a year, then fiddled around by me for $75 per hour for probably an hour for each product.. while the one in your take out container was made by a kid who could care less about your food, and just wants to bang the fry girl..

    Though I must admit, the last time I was at McD’s and ordered a Big Mac, I was VERY impressed on how it looked. But then again it was on a weekday, and the staff at the time looked like adults.. could be…

  • Sam

    Advertisement rules, if you get what you pay and that is same what you see, that means you get a real deal.
    Take for example some motor company whatever they list is at least 40% inflated. This is a rule of thumb for advertisers to rule out the public.

  • David

    The jack and the box taco makes me want to hurl

  • Rickey

    You should do one of these for in n out, the ad and the reality should be remotely the same, I work at in n out and I try so hard to make all my burgers look just like the picture!

  • Scipio Xaos

    Hey, can you try this with Hardees? Their burgers always seem to be like the ones they advertise on TV. I’d really like to know how they match up.

  • Asdasdsadsa

    There should be a penalty on this for the advertising company, Imo it’s misleading.

  • BoSt Productions

    and live longer

  • BoSt Productions

    Have you ever seen a fashion magazine? Same thing.
    They advertise politicians too. Ever get one of those that’s the same as the ads?

  • Shard Aerliss

    Or I could cook my own dinner… like a grown-up and everything.

  • Gml Mark

    I don’t care that much about how well put together my Whopper is…but I do care that they use the right ingredients. Notice that the ad picture uses an actual leafy lettuce, but what you actually got only contains tiny bits of chopped iceberg.

    This used to never be a problem. Back in the 90′s, I recall that the burgers I ordered looked much closer to how they’re advertised. Today, it seems that a lot of individual franchisees are trying to rip-off customers by using cheaper ingredients. For me, the kind of lettuce used makes a big difference. There are still Burger Kings that make a Whopper the right way, but they’re harder to find.


    I’m doing a similar project right now, but mine focuses on products available in german speaking countries (mainly Austria). I just started so I’d be happy if some of you guys check out my site sometime and let me know what you think about it.


  • Eastman

    Look what happened to Kohl’s.