Identify the Targeting: Are you being manipulated?


chicken (Photo credit: davemc500hats)

Have you heard of the Subservient Chicken?

You may not have heard of it unless you are a 16- to 45-year-old male who spends a lot of time on the internet according to several case studies. If you aren’t part of that group you might have heard it from a friend who thought it was funny or silly or even stupid. It was online a while ago and is only around now as a nostalgic entertainment novelty.

The Subservient Chicken interactive web video went online April 9, 2004 as part of a viral ad campaign for Burger King. (There are more links about this video at the end of this post.) The focus was to promote their Tendercrisp chicken sandwich. According to a case study, on, the interactive web video had nearly 14 million visitors and over 390 million hits in about a year. This case study also stated, “Burger King’s 21-month sales decline stopped and turned around. Burger King’s sales growth was soon outperforming McDonald”. The earlier case study quoted one of the developers of the campaign, ‘‘If you are going to be targeted you have to deliver something that is relevant to that target.’’ According to case studies, the ad targeted specific people and increased sales for Burger King. The increase in sales for Burger King was attributed to that campaign. Here are a few questions that I had about targeted marketing:

  • Where would that targeted group have spent their money if the ad had not been there?
  • Was their choice affected specifically by the ad?
  • Did they really want to spend their money for that product or were they guided to it, in a way, without their consent?
  • What would happen if we could identify when we are being targeted and then identify how it is affecting our choices?
  • If we took time to look into it would we make the same choices?
  • How many items do we have stuffed in closets, garages and storage units that were things we purchased due to targeted marketing?

Advertising works or the businesses wouldn’t spend billions on it. My question is how is it affecting our choices? Can we identify the effects and would that change our decisions?


There are many websites devoted to case studies on marketing and advertising. Some of the ones that I have found interesting was this one and the “Got Milk“? campaign. They both showed how simple suggestions can affect our behavior. What would a good ad campaign for helping people make good decisions when dealing with targeting and marketing and advertising?

Here are some of the sites I found with case studies on this subject. I hope you find them useful:

More Subservient Chicken web links:

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