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Ken Wheaton, Ad Age Editor, Takes Umbrage with Latest Carl’s Jr / Hardees TV Ads

Posted by on September 29, 2014

In a recent editorial, he says: (the ads) are disgusting, the (agency and client) should be ashamed of themselves, (the ads) aren’t sexy or funny. The maligned advertising agency is “72 and Sunny,” a creative shop out of Los Angeles and Amsterdam; here’s a look at some of their work for other clients.

From online biographies, it appears that Mr. Wheaton has never worked in either the ad agency or fast food business, and it seems his only employer ever (excepting his career as “novelist”, has been Ad Age, which is fairly highly regarded in the industry, though it does not hold the cachet it one did – but what trade magazine does?

Obviously I support any person having an opinion on anything, (I have a few,myself), bur Wheaton’s criticism seems to come to us from a viewpoint of either “politically correct editorializing” or perhaps as a side effect of his Catholic education in Acadiana. Again, I have no beef with any of that.

Carl’s Jr., and their acquired subsidiary should be lauded for their success with their marketing and strategic planning, both inside and outside of the stores.

With only a few thousand restaurants nationwide, they can’t compete in revenue (or marketing budgets) with the “big guys,” so they chose a target demo, designed a menu to appeal to that demo, and marketing the menu and concept directly to the demo. That’s damn smart.

The campaign, which would be generally described by many as using objectified women to sell hamburgers, has been a huge success, in terms of both creating buzz and selling product, and isn’t that what advertising is supposed to do?

The effort started with a swimsuit clad, car-washing, burger eating Paris Hilton in 2005, and has employed some top models and celebrities in similar situations. My personal favorite is the one done by chef / celebrity/ cookbook author Padma Lakshmi.

We’ve become a culture where everyone is a critic about everything, whether we’re dumping on restaurants on Yelp, dissing a contractor on Angie’s List, or posting photos/videos of products or situations gone awry on one of a dozen websites.

And there are so many sets of double-standards for these criticisms; chef/owners shouldn’t “get into it” with online reviewers, yet large corporations must respond to negative posts that can cause damage to a reputation or bottom line.

It’s always easier to dump on a business, concept, or person rather than offer some positive recommendations within the same piece.

As almost always with online posts, there is better content in the comments than in the original piece, as one respondent to Wheaton’s piece stated: After reviewing comments on this lazy Saturday afternoon, I am thankful to say I’ve finally witnessed the ultimate expression of sanctimoniousness…

It still surprises me how often a few thousand “ad people” want and expect brands to spend millions of dollars to reach THEM, instead of the millions of consumers who actually are responsible for purchasing 99%+ of their products.

The ad can perhaps be said to be in bad taste, or even crass, but to demonize female sexuality as “sexism” is ridiculous, and to imply the ad will be ineffective because the ad doesn’t appeal to someone who would never eat there in the first place slips past egocentric, and is actually just stupid…

Kinda funny to me, I would think that most people that are offended by such things would find the current spot the least offensive in the bunch.

If Mr. Wheaton has some suggestions as to how Carl’s Jr / Hardees (or any company) can continue their success in reaching their target demo, I am sure the company and their agency would love to hear them.

Perhaps he can incorporate them in his next novel?

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