Following a fairly predictable public outcry and drubbing in the press, Hacienda Mexican Restaurants is ending a two-week-old billboard campaign in Indiana that featured a red cocktail and the headline, “We’re like a cult with better Kool-Aid.” In case anyone missed the allusion to the 1978 mass-suicide tragedy at the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana—where the cyanide was actually served in Flavor-Aid—the Hacienda signs promised that the establishment’s food is “To die for.” A restaurant chain bold enough to associate itself with poison, misery and death? Yum, I’ll have seconds! Client marketing chief Jeff Leslie explains: Our role is not to be controversial or even edgy. We want to be noticed—and there’s a difference.” He realized, a bit too late, that 33 years on is still too soon for this kind of humor. “It went the wrong direction, hit a nerve, and we have come to realize we should not have done this billboard,” he says. They sure made themselves look like huge asses—about the size of this prodigious posterior in New Jersey.
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