© CKE Restaurants

More than half the people who saw the ads said they were "offensive" or "annoying."

Mike Pomranz
March 29, 2017

For over a decade, the two-for-the-price-of-one burger chains Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s have been putting flesh ahead of meat in their television advertisements, focusing more attention on scantily clad women than the burgers they were chowing down on. But in a new ad campaign launched today, the company has announced its time to grow up: Sexy models are out, replaced with a focus on the brand being the “Pioneers of Great American Burger.” It’s a big change for a business that proved that sex sells, even in the fast food burger industry.

It’s been a busy month for CKE Restaurant Holdings. Last week, the parent company behind Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s announced that failed Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder, the man who has successfully run CKE since 2000, would be replaced. At the time, insiders wondered if the sexy burger ads that were a successful, but sometime controversial signature of his tenure would be out the door as well. Not only has that speculation been confirmed, but it’s been confirmed with an exclamation point: A new advert shows a character called “Carl Hardee Sr.” returning, taking the reins of the burger business back from his immature, breast-obsessed son, “Carl Hardee Jr.”

Though this new campaign might appear like a knock on Puzder, the beleaguered Trump nominee is actually still running the show at CKE until his replacement, Jason Marker, starts next month. Puzder was even willing to explain why his company is changing direction: “The old campaign got a lot of attention, got people in to see the really delicious burger,” he told USA Today, but now “I think we had to more directly and convincingly” talk about the quality of the food.

Cleaning up its act seems like it was a long time coming for Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s. As Eater points out, as far back as 2015, over half those who viewed the chains’ sexy ads considered them “offensive” or “irritating and annoying” – not the kind of response a business is typically looking for when trying to drive in customers.

© CKE Restaurants

So for the time being, the burger chain’s will focus on being “pioneers.” If this campaign lasts as long as the sexy burger one, a decade from now, maybe Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s can even talk about how they pioneered mixing sexy models and dripping burger juices.