Carl’s Jr. nixes sleaze to put focus back on food in rebrand campaign out of 72andSunny

It looks like burger chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have finally grown up. After years of airing ads that featured nearly nude models and other scantily clad women, the sibling fast-food joints have rolled out a massive rebrand campaign in hopes of convincing consumers that they care more about food than boobs.

The crux of the campaign is a cheeky three-minute film that stars Carl Hardee Sr., the fictional founder of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Played by Nashville star Charles Esten, Hardee Sr. is appalled when he finds out that his son and successor Carl Junior, played by improv comedian Drew Tarver, has made a joke of the family business by letting it become notorious for its racy (and highly criticized) ads.

After busting through the doors of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s headquarters, Hardee Sr. demands that a scandalous picture of model Charlotte McKinney be taken down and replaced with a photo of a burger. As a crew of movers begins to remodel the place, employees gather around Hardee Sr. to hear him explain his plans to bring the CKE Restaurants-owned company back to its roots. In a flashback sequence, he explains that Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants have helped pioneer things like the charbroiler and the drive-thru throughout their history.

The campaign, which is running under the new tagline “Pioneers of the Great American Burger,” aims to shine a light on the quality of the brand’s food, like its grass-fed beef and made-from-scratch biscuits. In a 30-second film, the brand also reveals that it is adding all-natural chicken with “no antibiotics ever” to its menu.

“The best stories have a storyteller,” said Jason Norcross, 72andSunny partner and executive creative director, in a statement. “Creating both Carl Hardee Sr. and Carl Hardee Jr. gives us a fresh way to talk about the food, while helping the brand get credit for all the pioneering it does in the industry. People care about what’s in their food more than ever, and this campaign was all about getting back to talking about what makes Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s stand out against its competition -- its history of innovation and the story behinds its quality products. We're really proud of our partnership with CKE, and it's exciting to work with a brand that's brave and collaborative. This is just the beginning and we're excited for what's to come.”

Aside from broadcast, online and social media films, 72andSunny also redesigned the fast food chain’s packaging, in-store menus, employee uniforms and company logos.

Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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