Carl's Jr. Pairs With Homer for Chili-Burger Launch

Fox Affiliates to Create Spots Using Classic 'Simpsons' Episode to Promote Sandwich

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LOS ANGELES (Madison & Vine) -- In an innovative move, CKE Restaurants' Carl's Jr. has partnered with Fox TV affiliates in nine of its most popular markets to air a classic episode of "The Simpsons" featuring a chili cook-off in order to launch its Chili Cheeseburger and Fries.
Homer Simpson in the season eight episode 'El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer.'
Homer Simpson in the season eight episode 'El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer.' Credit: Fox

Not only will stations -- located in Denver; El Paso, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; Los Angeles, Portland, Ore.; Reno, Nev.; San Diego, San Francisco and Tulsa -- air the "Simpsons" episode, but they will also create and run "promercials." Those are spots that intersperse 15 seconds of footage hyping the "Simpsons" episode with another 15 seconds culled from the Carl's Jr. chili-cheese commercial. Each station selected its own cuts from the episode, "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer" ("The Mysterious Voyage of Homer"), so every market will have its own unique spot.

Cheap and easy
While this episode originally aired in 1997, that doesn't mean it's dead meat to the fast-food burger chain. On the contrary, for advertisers seeking to partner with TV shows, arriving late to the party is cheaper, easier and far less risky that hoping a given show's writers will prove themselves munificent instead of merciless with a brand.

Said Anne Blumenstein, VP-regional marketing and media at CKE Restaurants: "Often, when you integrate [into a first-run episode], you feel like 'Wait, what did I sign up for? The burger is being used as an aphrodisiac? What?' But here, it's almost like Homer Simpson is endorsing my product."

For the rollout of the burger, Carl's Jr. says it is targeting young males between the ages of 18 and 34, and, as Ms. Blumenstein noted, "'The Simpsons' is their show. How much more relevant is the chili cheeseburger using a classic 'Simpsons'?"

More-is-better tack is working
So far Carl's Jr.'s more-is-better approach has helped boost CKE's sales. Carl's Jr. recorded a same-store-sales increase of 0.9% for the fiscal year ended Jan. 28 on top of last year's 4.9% increase. The chain said the increase represents the brand's eighth straight year of positive same-store sales. But while CKE's stock price hovers close to its 52-week low -- the chain attributes the declines to bad weather in California and the Midwest -- during the last five years, its share price has tripled to nearly $12 (as of last night's close) from $4, including a high of $23.24 in the 52-week period.

While the move seems a first for syndicated TV, it's not the first time "The Simpsons" has done things in reverse with regard to product placement: Last year, as part of a reverse-product-placement marketing campaign for Twentieth Century Fox's "The Simpsons Movie," real-life incarnations of "Simpsons" universe products appeared at 7-Elevens. Buzz cola, KrustyO's cereal, iced Squishees and a special edition of the Radioactive Man comic book were all sold in stores alongside other "The Simpsons Movie" merchandise.
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