Sex sells—until it doesn’t. Carl’s Jr., the burger chain that once claimed its advertising of scantily clad women licking burgers “focuses on basic truths about our food and our attitude,” has reversed course. The New York Times reports the company will trade its long-standing ad strategy for one that focuses on burgers instead of boobs. The move comes as Carl’s Jr.’s parent company, CKE Restaurants Holdings, faces slipping sales and has cycled through three CEOs in three years.
It’s not as though criticism of the ads—as objectifying, as irrelevant, as completely unrelated to food—is anything new. But in the past, Carl’s Jr. has brushed aside such complaints, notably by issuing a press release in 2011 that said in part: “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.” New ads, which will debut in the spring, presumably won’t feature Kim Kardashian’s cleavage but will instead focus on Carl’s Jr.’s menu.
“We’re definitely not looking to the past,” Jess Monsey, president of 72andSunny, told The New York Times. 72andSunny had previously worked with CKE before it was replaced last year; now it’s back working with CKE, which also owns Hardee’s.
A new direction for the ads would be, for many, a welcome sight. Even big beer companies have woken up to 2019 mores, in which overt sex doesn’t sell the way it used to. We’re living in an era in which equality, gender fluidity, and defying expectations have created more memorable ads than those featuring bikinis and burgers. It’s nice to see Carl’s Jr. finally get it.