Posted April 19, 2005 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

Spicy Carl's JR Commercial

By Joe Kovacs
© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com

A new ad campaign promoting spicy hamburgers features a tough-talking unborn baby threatening to rip out part of his mother’s womb if she doesn’t stop eating jalapeno peppers.

The commercial can be seen here on Adage.

The campaign is getting reaction, both positive and negative, in online messageboards:

“I definitely need to try one,” writes one viewer.

“Trust me, [the ad is] entertaining. At least I thought so,” writes another.

But some, like Rodger Bell, were stunned in a negative way, as he sounded off to Carl’s Jr.: “I wanted to let your company know that my wife and I think your commercial with the fetus complaining about hot food is terrible. For a company that is based on something tasting good, that commerical is in bad taste. We actually turn the channel when it comes on. You should know how some of the public feels and in turn notify your advertising company.”

Even some professionals in the advertising industry are taken aback by the spot.

“I don’t want to be a stick in the special sauce here. But a talking fetus creeps me out, especially for selling me lunch,” says David Kiley, who covers marketing and advertising for Business Week magazine. “The other problem here is association. The last time I recall seeing a fetus in an ad, it was created by a right-to-life organization. So, sorry Carl’s Jr., but I can’t help but associate your product in this case with an abortion.”

Carl’s Jr., which has restaurants in 13 Western states, is a division of California-based CKE Restaurants, which has more than 3,200 locations in 44 states and 13 countries, including chains such as Hardee’s and La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill.

The company was founded by Carl Karcher, who used $15 in savings and borrowed $311 on his Plymouth car to buy a single hot dog cart in 1941 in Los Angeles. Karcher stepped down from the board of directors last year at age 87. Over the years, he has been an advocate and financial supporter of pro-life causes and candidates.

While no one with Carl’s Jr. or CKE was available for comment, their advertising company, Mendelsohn Zien of Los Angeles, said it’s proud of the baby ad, telling WorldNetDaily the goal of the campaign is to please its target audience of “young, hungry males” between the ages of 18 and 34.

“We didn’t want him to be innocent. We wanted to make him p—-d off, tough-talking, with buckets of attitude,” said copywriter Mick DiMaria. “The idea was to show spicy foods aren’t for ‘baby men.’

He says he and art director Marcus Wesson were trying to think up unexpected ways of how spicy food affects someone, and that led to the baby in the womb, especially since both men have had newborns added to their families in the past year.

“The people who have a problem with it are people we weren’t trying to reach,” DiMaria said, noting many are not seeing the tongue-in-cheek nature of the spot. “You lose some people, but you get the people you want. When you’re all things to all people, you’re nothing to no one. … We try to make the biggest splash possible. We’re lucky the client takes risks.”

Indeed, Carl’s Jr. has a history of running edgy commercials.

One showed a group of men examining a live chicken from every angle in a diligent search for the bird’s “nuggets.” The announcer says: “Introducing Carl’s Jr.’s chicken strips, because chickens don’t have nuggets.”

Virginia-based United Poultry Concerns blasted that campaign, complaining “it appeals to the same low-grade sense of humor that considers it funny to see pictorial depictions of women’s bodies carved up into various ‘grades’ of meat.” The group’s president, Karen Davis, said even if the bird used in the ad were not physically harmed, the ad portrayed chickens in a “degrading and demeaning manner.”

Another commercial featured Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner shown with a variety of women. The tag line stated: “Because some guys don’t like the same thing night after night.”

That campaign drew reaction from the pulpit of Christian evangelist Robert Schuller, host of the “Hour of Power” television program.

“I have never been so appalled, hurt, wounded, embarrassed and I cannot let it pass,” Schuller said of the Hefner ad.

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog