Carl's Jr., Hardee's Push Fresh Buns, Blast Competition

Chains Call Out Wendy's, McD, Burger King for Not Baking Bread On Premise

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Hamburger buns are fast food's newest battlefield, if Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have anything to do with it. The fast feeders' latest campaign touts fresh-baked buns at each of their resturants and takes aim at competitors who bake their bread off premise.

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The chains, purchased by Roark Capital Group this month, are releasing a pair of ads that specifically call out McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's for the fact that those chains don't bake their hamburger buns at each restaurant. Another ad in the campaign doesn't mention the competitors, but employs a "fun take on peoples' love for great buns," said CMO Brad Haley. Yes, the spots includes shots of derrieres.

The campaign targets competitors "to point out the fact that this is a big quality statement in the industry," said Mr. Haley. Of course, Subway has long been baking its bread at its locations, as has Panera, but Mr. Haley said this is a first for major fast-food burger chains.

Wendy's this year rolled out several limited-time offers on premium buns -- though they were not baked at each Wendy's location -- including its Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, the Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich, and the Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche, which is currently being advertised. The chain said in August that the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger was on-track to become its best-selling new product in nearly a decade, though no formal announcement has been made on whether it will become a permanent item. Wendy's also rolled out whole-grain flatbreads this spring.

At Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, the new buns will be permanent items and served with the chains' third-pound and $6 burgers. While the buns are baked at each location, they arrive at the restaurants in frozen dough form. The genesis of baking at each location was Carl's Jr.'s rollout of fresh-made breakfast biscuits last year. The chain looked for other bread opportunities since ovens were installed at all locations. Hardee's has been offering fresh-made biscuits for 30 years, Mr. Haley said.

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The campaign was created by Los Angeles-based 72andSunny and will include radio, print and digital buys, along with content partnerships with BuzzFeed and The Chive. The BuzzFeed content will include a sponsored post in the form of the ubiquitous BuzzFeed numbered list -- a list of images of "great buns of all types," said Mr. Haley.

In all, the campaign will amount to about $20 million in paid media. Last year, Carl's Jr. spent about $40.3 million on U.S. measured media, according to Kantar Media, while Hardee's spent about $26.1 million.

Carl's Jr. and Hardee's in December will launch a new burger, the Philly Cheesesteak Burger, which will be served on the new bun and Philadelphia Eagle Terrell Owens will appear in TV spots for the item starting in late December.

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