Want Fries with that?… We’re out of scruples.

Today’s guest blog was written by Matt Lester, Peppercomm’s creative director. 

For quite some time the Carl’s Jr. burger chain had been the king of sexist, soft-porn marketing. So, I suppose they can be commended for emphasizing food instead of boobs in their latest campaign. Going back to their roots of solid, innovative, good food with a sense of humor was a smart step in the right direction, albeit forced by consumer data more than from the heart. Through a well-produced pairing of a seemingly honorable, can-do Carl Sr. and entitled slacker Carl Jr., they set up a classic sitcom conflict by leveraging the generational differences between a baby-boomer dad and his millennial son. I was actually looking forward to what’s next in the series.

Let’s not heap too much praise on one, admittedly well done film. Having been part of a global coffee campaign that ran nearly two dozen episodes in the states alone, I know a thing or two about serial commercials. The question of what’s next is exactly what should be on the minds of every one of your viewers at the end of each film. Diligently establish full characters and they’ll practically write the scripts for you. Carl Sr. was introduced as the classic, righteous, all-American hero arriving just in the nick of time to save the company from certainly failure. A man who stands tall for his principles, does the right thing for himself, his family and the public at large. Well, that’s who I thought he was until I saw the latest installment explaining how the Baby Back Rib Burger was born.

Here’s yet another example of our new world order where the less scruples you have, the more you’re celebrated at the highest levels of society. Where the old definition of the classic hero fighting for fairness and what’s right is turned into a joke. In this film, the two Carls team up to blatantly steal a, “million-dollar idea” from a hard-working short order cook and then cowardly run away. To add insult to injury, it’s not enough to take advantage of the guy and leave him with nothing, he’s made to look the fool and humiliated in the closing scene.

Most CMO’s and CCO’s know that the importance of what a company stands for is at an all-time high and rising. Carl’s Jr. had a perfect opportunity to establish a new purpose, one about a belief in honest, good food at a good value. Instead, their agency stole that chance from them by portraying their founder as being just as lazy, irresponsible and selfish as his spoiled kid.

Ray Kroc is reported to have once said, “If I see my competition drowning, I’ll stick a hose in their mouth.” Sadly, I guess that’s Carl’s Jr.’s new mission, their new purpose. Dare I say, it almost makes me miss the boobs.

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