CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Hardee's may have enjoyed the free publicity it received from a recent, raunchy campaign, but its biggest franchisee is bucking corporate and validating an enraged watchdog group.
In a letter to the Parents Television Council, Ben Mayo Boddie, who operates 350 restaurants through Rocky Mount, N.C.-based Boddie-Noell Enterprises, decried Hardee's recent effort to name its fried biscuit holes with icing. The ad, from agency Mendelsohn Zien, asks consumers to "Name Our Holes," with people on the street suggesting names such as "goody balls," "creamy sweet holes," "cinnanuts" and "ball munchers."
The Parents Television Council wrote a letter to Hardee's franchisees last month, describing the work as "irresponsible advertising from any perspective." Mr. Boddie responded with his own letter, saying that the ads put Hardee's in a "category that diminishes not only the product but the brand itself." He added that his organization does not "plan to place this spot in any markets that we have control," and that he is "also asking that these commercials be eliminated in all markets."
"Mr. Boddie deserves the highest praise from the Parents Television Council, its members and other concerned citizens for standing against this highly inappropriate marketing campaign," Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, said in a statement released with excerpts from Mr. Boddie's letter. "The Hardee's marketing team seems intent on pushing the boundaries at every turn whether we're talking about 'iced B-holes' or the company's attempts at turning hamburgers into sex objects."
Justifying its sexy approach
Hardee's and sister chain Carl's Jr. in recent years have become known for salacious advertising starring Paris Hilton, Hugh Hefner, Padma Lakshmi and, most recently, "The Hills" star Audrina Patridge. CEO Andy Pudzer has said that his brands' comparatively small advertising budget necessitates a sexier approach if they're going to cut through the clutter. The company issued the following statement regarding the "Holes" ads:
CKE Restaurants Inc., owner and franchisor of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants, adopts a creative approach to our advertising. It is intended to communicate the core message of our premium quality food to our target audience of young, hungry guys. We do not aim to exclude or offend any other group with our efforts, but merely to appeal and amuse a very specific audience. ... With respect to the referenced commercial for Biscuit Holes, the spot is only airing after 9 p.m. Our franchisees have the opportunity to provide input on which commercials will air in their respective markets and can choose not to air any that they might have a particular concern with. There are no present plans to drop the ads.
It's unclear whether Mr. Boddie's discontent is indicative of greater franchisee unrest. But Hardee's wouldn't be alone. Several fast feeders have upped the ante on edgy and raunchy advertising in the recession. As the largest instigator, Burger King has gotten the bulk of the blowback from parents, media and watchdog groups -- and franchisees have expressed concern. Burger King recently admitted to franchisees that sexual innuendo in its advertising "have inadvertently reflected negatively on the brand." In the future, Burger King has promised to "tone down creative execution in this regard."