Carl's Jr. is poking fun at its bikini babe past with a new ad that spoofs its infamous 2005 Paris Hilton car washing spot. Subbing for the Hilton hotel heiress in the new version is comedian Celeste Barber. She lathers up an aging station wagon—not a Bentley, like Hilton did in the 2005 ad that drew headlines and complaints from watchdogs like the Parents Television Council.
The premise is similar to the Instagram posts Barber does, posing similarly to images featuring models and celebrities. "When we approached her it really was about building on what she's done," says Patty Trevino, senior VP of brand marketing at CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc, which owns Carl's Jr. and Hardee's. Barber, who is from Australia, wasn't familiar with all of the past campaigns, Trevino says.
The voiceover is supplied by Matthew McConaughey who says in the ad that "the food is the star" at Carl's Jr. The chain has been using the actor's voice since February in ads that featured food close-ups. But those "didn't break through for us," Trevino says. The new campaign, called "Famous Stars Eating Famous Stars," (one of the chain's signature burgers is the Famous Star) also includes Instagram posts featuring people including singer Ashlee Simpson Ross.
The campaign is by Havas Chicago, which won the account in early 2018, replacing 72andSunny. Carl's Jr. pivoted from its bikini babe ads in early 2017. The approach had become increasingly tone-deaf in an era of female empowerment.
Sibling brand Hardee's is also taking a new approach after switching its lead agency. Havas-owned Arnold has taken over from Havas Chicago, Trevino confirmed. Havas Chicago had won Hardee's at the same time it took on Carl's Jr. in early 2018. CKE at the time began making a concerted effort to differentiate the ad approaches for the two brands. Havas Chicago's early work for Hardee's emphasized its heritage, but the CKE was not entirely satisfied with it.
"What was lost in the advertising was the food story and telling the story about the process," Trevino says. "While the tonality of the brand was represented in what we launched in April, we were missing, kind of, the quality cues."
Under Arnold, Hardee's is showcasing actor David Koechner as Hardee's general manager "Ron Tenz" discussing how staff hand breads chicken tenders. There's also an updated slogan, "Hardee's 'Cause it Tastes Better," a shift from the "Tastes Like America" work that debuted in April.