The Franklin-based fast food chain CKE Restaurants, which runs Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants, has hired a fast food marketing veteran and plans to work with an ad agency that previously made its sexually suggestive ads.
However, the company doesn't plan to return to the risqué ads it aired up until 2017.
Chad Crawford will be the company’s new Chief Brand Officer. Before joining CKE, Crawford worked for KFC, Burger King, Denny’s and Popeyes. Most recently he was the president of Popeyes in North America.
Soon after taking the job, Crawford revived a relationship with an ad agency that produced sexually suggestive TV commercials for CKE, such as a 2015 super bowl ad featuring a nearly naked model walking through a farmer’s market.
In a statement, the company says it's working on a new ad campaign, but it won't focus on sexuality.
“72andSunny helped make Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s ‘impossible to ignore’ for six years,” Crawford said in a press release. “I’m confident they can make both brands ’impossible to ignore’ again, but in a fresh, new way that reflects the ever-changing marketplace.”
For years, CKE Restaurants and 72andSunny embraced the sex-sells approach.
In a 2009 press release promoting a French dip burger, CKE reported that it had hired a group of “gorgeous French Maids … to cruise the country on segways.”
72andSunny developed a mobile app for the campaign, called the French Me Tour, that helped customers learn pick up lines in French.
“What do maids, toast, kisses and burgers all have in common? They’re all better when they’re French,” former Carl’s Jr. chief marketing officer Brad Haley said, according to the 2009 release. “Our loyal fans not only love Hardee’s food, they enjoy the beautiful women who have starred in our commercials over the years.”
In 2012, 72andSunny created a CKE commercial featuring supermodel Kate Upton.
In a press release promoting that commercial, 72andSunny Founder Glenn Cole said “While our competitors try to out-kid-meal each other, we're going to keep making noise and delivering young hungry guys what they want."
In 2017, CKE moved away from hyper-sexualized advertising. 72andSunny created an ad campaign for Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. that put the focus back on “food not boobs.”
The company even staged a promotional video where internet personalities helped destroy boxes of bikinis, tanning oil and a piñata shaped like a butt.
“Since premiering our now iconic ad starring Paris Hilton 12 years ago, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have become synonymous with two things: bikinis and burgers,” Haley said, according to a 2017 press release about the new advertising direction. “While those provocative ads generated a lot of buzz for our brands and were very successful for us, it was very difficult for that kind of an ad to tell a more comprehensive story about the long list of things we do to make better food than anyone else in our space.”
The company announced the change in advertising strategy just a few days after former CKE CEO Andy Puzder, who had defended the sexy ads, retired. Puzder had been nominated by president Donald Trump to become the secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor, but was not confirmed.
CKE worked with 72and Sunny from 2011 to 2017.
A representative from CKE didn't want to share specifics about a new ad campaign, but if Crawford’s tenure at Popeyes is any indication, it should be fairly tame.
According to the company’s website, Popeyes introduced their “feisty” spokesperson Annie in 2009 “to tell it like it is.” She tends to wear more sensible clothing.