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How Saudis really see Americans

If you believe a new Burger King ad playing in the kingdom, Americans are clueless about the Middle East.

A still taken from a new television ad for the Gulf region’s Burger King created by a Dubai-based company that pokes fun at how little many Americans know about Saudi Arabia.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — “Have it your way!”

The long-time Burger King slogan usually refers to pickles, onions and cheese.

But a new series of hilarious ads for the hamburger chain created for Middle East consumers puts a whole new spin on the well-worn phrase. And in the process, the commercials make some interesting social commentary.

The three spots — which are airing on YouTube to test public response before going to satellite television — feature two young Arab men having a Burger King meal with two young American women they just met.

The women are clearly clueless.

“Middle East? Isn’t that the capital of Arabia, or somewhere?” one asks.

“Do you guys, like, drive camels to work in the morning?”

“You must be loaded!”

Instead of being insulted, the men play along as they demolish their whoppers.

One says he lives in a “double-story tent.” The other relates how he has “oil wells in the backyard and once a week a group of businessmen comes to us and we pump the oil by hand.”

One of the wide-eyed women starts imagining these scenes. In her mind’s eye, for example, she sees her dinner partners in traditional robes standing by a hand-pump and being given a paper bag from a tall man in a cowboy hat.

“Here’s your cash and your whopper,” he says in an exaggerated American accent.

The woman’s fantasies all end with “Have it your way!” and Burger King’s logo flashing on the screen.

The ads were developed by Dubai-based Tonic Communications for the Gulf region’s Burger King franchise-holder, Riyadh-based Olayan Group, a Saudi-owned international conglomerate.

Olayan officials did not respond to an email and phone messages seeking comment, and a Tonic official said he was not given permission by his client to speak with a reporter.

But it is clear that the ads are targeting the Gulf region’s savvy and travel-loving young adult population. Of the 70,000 Saudis studying abroad on government scholarships, about 24,000 of them are in the United States.