Stargazing

Carl’s Jr. and Hardees dump sexy ads for new ‘food not boobs’ campaign

Fictional founder Carl Hardee Sr. is done selling sex and ready to take the brand in a new direction.
Fictional founder Carl Hardee Sr. is done selling sex and ready to take the brand in a new direction. Carl's Jr. via YouTub

Say good-bye to those famous burger commercials that really got the juices flowing.

Paris Hilton, soaped up in a bikini, washing her Bentley while eating a Spicy BBQ Burger.

Celebrity chef Padma Lakshmi dripping sauce all over herself from a Western Bacon Six Dollar Burger.

Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton making out with a Southwest Patty Melt.

Those days are gone for hamburger chain Carl’s Jr./Hardees, which is dumping its famously sexy and controversial TV commercials for ones that focus on the meat not cheesecake.

Or, as it’s put in their new ad: “Food, not boobs.”

The 3-minute spot will debut Sunday on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. A 60-second version of the ad will run during the NCAA championship game on Monday.

CEO Andy Puzder, who left the company earlier this month after his unsuccessful bid to become Labor Secretary in the Trump administration, said the chain is keeping up with times.

“The old campaign got a lot of attention, got people in to see the really delicious burger," Puzder told USA Today.

But “I think we had to more directly and convincingly” talk about the quality of the food, he said.

He told Fox Business on Thursday that tastes are changing in advertising as well as food.

“You and I certainly may like the ads we’ve been running,” he told Fox’s Stuart Varney. But “young, hungry guys aren’t as affected by the racy ads with the swimsuit models because you can get a lot of that on the internet now.

“It’s not like it was 10, 12 years ago when we started this. Young guys today, the millennial young guys, are concerned with, where do you source your beef? What kind of cooking system do you have?”

The company still has its eye on its prized “hungry young guy” demographic, but upscale changes are coming.

The company’s iconic yellow star logo will lose the happy face in the middle to look less kid-like. Restaurants will be remodeled into more upscale, contemporary spaces. Employee uniforms and menus have been redesigned. A new tagline has been revealed: “Pioneers of the great American burger.”

Eater notes that the marketing shift has been a long time coming, considering that in 2015 more than half of consumers polled found the company’s ads “offensive” or “irritating.”

Those are the kind words people used to describe commercials accused of objectifying women with their soft porn-like qualities.

“We don’t have anything to be ashamed of,” Puzder told USA Today, insisting that the ads and improvements in cleanliness, food quality and service have helped saved the chain.

The new advertising campaign is designed around a pitchman, the company’s first, named Carl Hardee Sr. and played by “Nashville” star Charles Esten.

AdWeek notes the name Carl Hardee is an amalgam of the company’s founders Carl Karcher and Wilbur Hardee. The restaurants are known as Carl’s Jr. in the western United States and as Hardees in the Midwest and Southeast.

In the first of the new commercials, the company mocks itself for its provocative past as Carl Sr. takes the company back from his spoiled, testosterone-driven, millennial son, Carl Jr.

Senior banishes the bikinis as he reminds Junior of the beef.

“They’ve never really gotten credit for their quality, and we want that message to land with consumers,” Jason Norcross, executive creative director and partner at 72andSunny, which created the campaign, told AdWeek. “We want to reclaim their bona fides.”

It was time for the company to evolve, said Norcross, whose company has been making ads for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s for eight years.

“Some of the product attributes got lost because people were too busy ogling girls,” he said.

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