After Ditching Sexualized Ads, Carl’s Jr. Launches Creative Review

Brand has worked with 72andSunny for 6 years

Parent company CKE Restaurants also hired a new CMO over the summer. Carl's Jr.
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The Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s franchise is looking for a new lead creative agency after going through some major changes to its leadership and brand identity over the past year.

“CKE Restaurants, holding company for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, is putting their U.S. creative and digital work up for review,” read a statement from the burger chain’s PR firm. “The company will be inviting a select group of agencies to respond to the RFP including current agency, 72andSunny who has been the AOR for six years. The brand is proud of that relationship and the evolution of the creative work. This RFP is part of its strategy to continue redefining itself in the marketplace with breakthrough concepts leveraging cultural relevance and digital innovations.”

The announcement follows this summer’s hiring of Whole Foods veteran Jeff Jenkins as chief marketing officer. In March, CEO Andy Puzder stepped down after 16 years following his unsuccessful nomination to become President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labor, and onetime KFC president Jason Marker moved in to take his place. CMO Brad Haley also left over the summer to accept the same position at IHOP, which is currently in the midst of another creative review involving 72andSunny.

Carl’s Jr. made headlines last year for ending its string of famously sexualized ads, most of which featured models or celebrities eating burgers while in various stages of undress. The new work from 72andSunny, which debuted in March, flipped the script by introducing Carl Hardee Sr. as the elder statesman, back from extended hiatus and ready to help the brand forget its less mature past.

Puzder later told Fox Business News that, while he enjoyed all those risqué spots, the campaigns were no longer as effective for young consumers more interested in quality ingredients. “You can get sex on the internet,” he said. “You don’t need a Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s ad.”

The change had been coming for some time. In late 2016, 72andSunny parted ways with the account’s two creative leads, both of whom had been making ads for Carl’s Jr. since well before they joined the MDC Partners network.

It is unclear at this time which shops beyond 72andSunny have been invited to pitch. An agency representative deferred to the client for comment, and CKE Restaurants declined to elaborate beyond the statement above. Earlier this year, the franchise made its first agency change in several years by assigning digital and social media duties to Vice-owned Carrot Creative.

According to Kantar Media, CKE spent approximately $100 million on paid media in the U.S. in 2016 and $49 million during the first half of this year.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.