Carl’s Jr. Sizzles With Univision Novela Pitch

Carl’s Jr.’s new Hispanic TV campaign is full of surprises and, in typical Carl’s Jr. form, a bit racy. The ads, breaking today on 21 Univision and TeleFutura affiliates in 11 California, Arizona and Texas markets, do triple duty to break through the clutter and grab the attention of young, hungry Hispanic men. Disguised as a mini-novela, Carl’s Jr.’s products are integrated into storylines, all of which end with a simple tune-in promotion tag for Univision’s or TeleFutura’s prime-time lineup.

Four versions of the mininovelas promoting different Carl’s Jr. products are planned for a campaign slated to run through June 23. The first one, for Carl’s Jr.’s Kentucky Bourbon Burger, will run for about three weeks.

Initiative, which has handled planning and buying for Carl’s Jr. since 1975, came up with the mininovela concept as a way to make every dollar of Carl’s Jr.’s TV budget count. “The eternal challenge is, how do we compete with McDonald’s,” said Robert Holtkamp, senior vp, group account director for Initiative. McDonald’s, the top advertiser in the category, outspent regional franchiser Carl’s Jr. by 13 to 1, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.  “We think the ads will be watched multiple times and produce a lot more awareness than just a commercial,” Holtkamp added.

Initiative approached the telenovela experts at Univision, which produced the ad at Los Angeles flagship KMEX. At first, viewers might think they’re about to watch a new telenovela aptly titled Deseos (Desires). It has all the elements: a scantily clad young woman lying next to a ruggedly handsome man wearing only a towel. The pair are interrupted by the man’s father, who was the woman’s former lover and was supposed to be dead. All three end up in bed together noshing on Kentucky Bourbon Burgers (complete with signature crunch) as the announcer intones: “Because not only the most manly men watch novelas, all of us do. Enjoy them with the delicious Kentucky Bourbon Burger from Carl’s Jr.”

“Research showed that young Hispanic men watch telenovelas and young hungry guys eat fast food more than anybody else,” said Anne Blumenstein, vp of media and field marketing for Carl’s Jr. “The 30-second spot is great, but when we can create some entertainment, we’re better able to reach our target.”

While many advertisers are cutting back because of the sinking economy, Carl’s Jr. still plans to spend. “We think this grows our business,” said Blumenstein. “We need to remind people that they can go out to dinner and get restaurant-quality food. So we’re going to keep ourselves in front of consumers.”