Carl’s Jr. and Matthew McConaughey Skip the Sex Appeal and Go Straight to the Bacon in New Ads

Havas debuts GIF-worthy campaign for the burger chain

It's a late-night sensory onslaught. Carl's Jr.
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

As if it weren’t clear that burger chain Carl’s Jr. was pivoting away from the over-the-top sexuality that defined the brand for years, the first campaign from its new agency of record reinforces that.

Havas focuses on the bacon, with help from the voice of Matthew McConaughey, he of the reflective car ads and fireside bourbon sessions.

A series of ads promoting the new Western Bacon Cheeseburger embraces the rapid fire, GIF-like style common to late-night programming such as Adult Swim. McConaughey’s wordplay only adds to the sensory onslaught.

Note the focus on oozing sauces and melting cheese as the brand appeals to an audience that might just happen to be under the influence.

The new ads mark a major departure from the sexualized spots that made Carl’s Jr. famous and last year’s attempt by former agency of record 72andSunny to refocus on the brand itself by creating a backstory about fictional founder Carl Hardee Sr.

According to Jeff Jenkins, chief marketing officer at parent company CKE Restaurants, the new effort seeks to maintain the chain’s reputation as “a brand that’s impossible to ignore” by focusing on the food while aiming to establish a “crave culture.” He also plans to develop a more distinctive identity for Carl’s Jr.’s sister brand, Hardee’s.

CKE, like many other brands, has opted to move away from big broadcast spots in favor of more digital-first and social-friendly content created by smaller teams on tighter deadlines.

Havas chairman and chief creative officer Jason Peterson sums up the “do more faster” approach as such: “The speed of marketing today is leaving brands and traditional agencies behind. By shifting both our thinking and making from ‘creatives’ to ‘creators,’ we’re able to come up with culturally relevant ideas, and create and execute them with immediacy.”

The agency’s Chicago headquarters recently won a review that launched last October, about a year after 72andSunny parted with the creative team of Justin Hooper and Mick DiMaria, and the brand indicated that it would move in a dramatically different direction. The creative duo had led the Carl’s Jr. work for years at 72andSunny and the now-shuttered Mendelsohn Zien.


Agency: Havas Chicago
Client: CKE Restaurants, Carl’s Jr.
Campaign: The Call Of Carl’s

Chief Marketing Officer: Jeff Jenkins
Sr. Director Brand Marketing: Harry Mulkey
Director of Digital Marketing: Meredith Martin

Chairman and Chief Creative Officer: Jason Peterson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer: Paul Marobella
President and Chief Client Officer: Tatia Torrey
Chief Strategy Officer: Anna Parker
Head of Content, North America: Dave Evans
Group Brand Director: Mariana Parke
Director of Business Affairs: Bonnie Hamilton
Group Creative Directors: Karen Goodman, Benny Jackson
Creative Director: Danny Mota
Copywriter: Daniel Cobb
Copywriter: Sandy Sarria Aldrey
Art Director: Jonathan Chang
Strategy Director: Jon Schultz
Executive Producer: Brigette Whisnat
Executive Producer: Peter Feldman
Content Producer: Bridget Danko
Group Account Director: Jenny Bennett
Account Director: Lisa Sokolnicki

Production: Taste
Director: Thomas Schauer
Executive Producer / Partner: Tim Case
Executive Producer: Becky Donahue
Head of Production: Marieta Blaskova
Line Producer: Nina Sloan
Executive Producer: Marieta Blaskova
DP: Thomas Schauer

Post Production: ODD
Editor: Neil Gust
Asst. Editor: Chelsea Smith
Producer: Nakia Cooper
EP: Matthew Turke

Graphics: ODD
Creative Director: Gary Breslin

Color: The Mill
Colorist: Fergus McCall

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.