We're going back to the basics—that's essentially the message of the redefined Carl's Jr. fast-food chain. So long to those scantily clad models sinking their teeth into big, juicy burgers.
Now it's all about the meal—stressing the importance of good ingredients, great flavor, reasonable prices, customer service. To get its point across, Carl's rolled out a new ad (airing in various lengths), in which Carl Hardee Sr. has returned to corporate headquarters to wrest control of the company from his idiot son Carl Jr. It's a terrific ad.
Naturally the commercial lends itself to broad interpretation: I see it as a generational issue—grownups might not know how to Snapchat, Instagram, or swipe left or right (I have no idea what I just typed), but we know what matters. Take that, millennials!
The full ad ran during a Morning Joe segment on MSNBC, and the cohosts were ecstatic. "We saw this ad this weekend and thought it was great on so many levels," raved Joe Scarborough. "First of all, we're getting the kids out of here, the punks exploiting women. It was great not only turning the page but also looked an awful lot like this is a message from Americans, can we get grownups back in place?" He went on, "I saw that ad, and it hit on just about every level. First of all Carl's with a company, also with a country, people yearning for a grown up to come back in charge. Shut up, this is how we do it."
So it's a repudiation of Donald Trump? Morning Joe guest Donny Deutsch, himself a former ad executive, said it was "beyond brilliant marketing," noting that "the parallels are stunning there. The irony of a company that used to be run by a cabinet nominee [Andy Puzder, who withdrew his nomination to be labor secretary]. Stunning advertising, stunning metaphor of what's going on in this country and what people are going to be longing for." To which Scarborough added: "That's the bigger point out of this. How does this extend beyond Carl's Jr., Hardee's…. You watch, over the next three or four years, as long as Donald Trump remains in the position he's in right now, there's going to be a longing for the restoration, for competence, for people who actually know what they are doing."
"What you're going to start to see are things about nice and good, the opposite," said Deutsch. "You're going to see—you just saw what advertisers do, they will use a mirror where the world needs to go. We're going to have movies, TV shows about authenticity, human decency, yesteryear."
Might this be overinterpreting things a bit?
In fact, one could argue that Carl Hardee Sr. looks, walks, and talks like the type of guy Trump would actually want on his cabinet. He's a successful businessman. He's got swagger. He speaks with a drawl. (And no, Carl Hardee is not real. He's played by the actor Charles Esten, who you might recognize from Nashville or as the "cool" Stamford boss in The Office. "Carl Hardee" is the combination of two chains owned by CKE—Carl's Jr. and Hardees. The real founder was Carl Karcher, who truly lived the American Dream and died in 2008.) I'm also guessing Trump supporters enjoy eating at Carl's Jr. Trump critics, on the other hand, probably prefer eating here.
And as Adweek reminds us, those rather suggestive commercials have been around for at least 15 years. Meaning the rebranding is a repudiation of behavior and attitude dating back to 2002. I've argued that La La Land did so well because we so badly needed a refuge from a terrible world. But La La Land was written by Damien Chazelle in 2010 and filming started in 2015.
And one last thing about the rebranding campaign: Kudos to the geniuses at ad agency 72andSunny. It's so much more decent and authentic than those lurid ads of the past—you know, the ones created by ad agency 72andSunny.
I could be overinterpreting things. A bit.