It’s the dawning of a new era for Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s: The chain is doing away with its long-running controversial ads that feature scantily clad women chowing down on giant burgers. The commercials, which first began airing in 2005, have featured everyone from Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian to Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi and are rife with glistening skin, dripping sauce, bountiful cleavage, and porn-y soft lighting.
Now, USA Today reports, they’re being replaced with a fresh ad campaign that pokes fun at the overtly sexual ads of yesteryear, featuring a gruff fictional company founder named Carl Hardee Sr. In the new campaign, the “slutburger” ads (a term coined by Gawker) are blamed on his impish son, Carl Hardee Jr., who’s apparently been running the company like a frat house while dad’s been out.
The marketing shift has seemingly been a long time coming: In 2015, more than half of consumers polled found the ads “offensive” or “irritating.”
Failed labor secretary nominee and soon-to-step-down CEO Andy Puzder has long defended the ads, saying in a 2011 press release, “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.” (Yes, that’s a real quote.)
"We don't have anything to be ashamed of," Puzder tells USA Today, insisting that the eyebrow-raising ads helped get customers in the door. But now the chain wants to widen its demographic beyond just the “hungry young guy” market, and it turns out objectifying half the population isn’t the way to do that.
For comparison’s sake, here’s a 2012 ad featuring model Kate Upton:
And here’s the new 2017 campaign:
• Sexy Burger Girls? No Longer at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's [USA Today]
• Carl’s Jr.’s Latest Slutburger Ad Is ‘Irritating and Annoying,’ Says America [E]
• Slutburgers Gone Wild! Carl's Jr. Ads Through The Years [E]