Carl's Jr. Super Bowl Ad Cooks Up Controversy

Some say the racy Carl's Jr. commercial is more for buns than burger.

ByABC News
January 22, 2015, 10:09 AM

— -- Carl's Jr. released its super-sexy Super Bowl commercial this week and the shock ad starring a scantily-clad model is already inciting a fiery reaction online.

It's not clear until 28 seconds into a new 42-second commercial that it's an ad for the fast-food company’s new all-natural burger. The spot focuses on a buxom woman eating a hamburger and drawing stares -- and people are already talking, but not so much about the grass-fed beef.

One person tweeted, "Just saw a preview of Carl's Jr. commercial for Super Bowl. Now I need a cigarette."

Another Twitter user posted, "Setting feminism back four decades."

Carl's Jr.'s ad play is no surprise to industry experts, who say the brand is catering to a male audience.

"I think everyone knows what Carl's Jr. is all about," AdWeek editor Lisa Granatstein told ABC News' "Good Morning America." “Those ads aren't going after women, they're going after men. They are not afraid of the controversy. The more controversy the better.”

While some question if viewers are losing their appetite for raunchy during the big game, Granatstein says it’s a “win-win.”

"They get more clicks on YouTube, they get more social media. It's a win-win for them. I don't think they care one way or the other what women think about these ads,” Granatstein said.

Carl's Jr. regularly banks on the "sex sells" philosophy for its edgy multi-million-dollar Super Bowl campaigns. Previous commercials featuring Kate Upton, Paris Hilton and Heidi Klum have been so racy, they prompted critics to create the hashtag #WomenAreMoreThanMeat.

While many have called foul on other Super Bowl ads for being too sexy, last year the trend seemed to lean toward the clever or cute, such as an ad showing Budweiser's popular Clydesdale horse making friends with a puppy.

"A lot of advertisers have backed away from sexy, raunchy advertisements," Granatstein said.

This year's early roster suggests some companies may be toning down the shock value. The new commercial for GoDaddy is expected to show a tamer and fully-clothed scene with Danica Patrick, complete with an adorable puppy.

As for Carl’s Jr., it seems it is sticking to the original recipe of more buns than burger.

The regional ad will not air nationally on Super Bowl Sunday, but will be seen mostly in Western states (plus, online and in social media feeds).

“Do these ads work for selling burgers? Possibly, but what it really does is put Carl's Jr. on the map and make them a nationally known brand,” Granatstein said.

A representative from the parent company of Carl's Jr. told ABC News the ads don’t show anything you wouldn't see at the beach and that they don't cross the line, but they like to get right up to it.