Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: TODAY
By Lyn Mettler

Can't stand clowns? You're definitely not alone.

Now Burger King is hoping to cash in on a common phobia with a new creative new ad campaign — and the chain isn't being subtle about trolling its biggest competitor's main mascot Ronald McDonald.

Burger King

The fast food giant recently released a series of ads promising "clown-free" birthday parties for its customers.

This little girl wasn't exactly frightened. But she doesn't look happy, either. Burger King

The ads, which were created by Spanish agency LOLA MullenLowe, first appeared in print publications in Mexico but have quickly drummed up buzz around the world on Facebook and Twitter.

The series of pictures feature various clowns holding horrified-looking children, most of whom are crying. All of the images feature the tagline: "Birthdays should be happy. Come to Burger King and book a clown free party."

In a prepared statement, Marcelo Pascoa, head of global marketing for Burger King, said, "Burger King knows that birthdays are a very big deal for kids, and we believe they should be fun and clown-free. We prefer to be on the good side of children’s memories not the scary ones, like the traumatized kids in these ads."

Wondering if the kids in the photos are real or just staged for a photo shoot? A spokesperson for Burger King confirmed to TODAY Food that the ad team used actual photos from real birthday parties.

Poor kids!

The rep also provided the following statement: "We could probably report some interesting data about how 5 out of 5 people are terrified of clowns and coulrophobia is on the rise, but the only proof we need are the tears of innocent children whose birthday have been ruined by clowns.

"Our children deserve better and Burger King wants to help you celebrate their birthdays in a clown-free, tear-free zone."

As the ads circulated around Twitter, a few people responded with delighted, albeit sympathetic, reactions.

While others weren't so sure about the true message the chain is sending with its latest campaign.

Aside from targeting McDonald's most recognizable clown mascot, Burger King is also currently promoting "unhappy meals" in partnership with Mental Health America during the month of May. The chain previously launched a Big King XL burger, which was strikingly similar to the classic Big Mac.

But Burger King's latest campaign may hit home for a lot of Americans, young and old.

A survey conducted by Chapman University in 2016 found that nearly 8% of Americans listed clowns as a "personal fear." And a 2014 study from Rasmussen Reports found that 43% of respondents said they didn't like circus clowns.

We're sure that the 2017 movie "It" based on Stephen King's classic novel didn't help things either — so the number of clown fearers in the U.S. might be even higher now!

Of course, this isn't the first time that the company has used clowns in a campaign, either. On Halloween in 2017, Burger King hosted "Scary Clown Night" and offered free Whoppers to customers who came to Burger King dressed up in clown costumes.