Fast Food Chains Steam Up Ads

Sales for Burgers Include Bikini-Clad Girls, Sexual Innuendo


July 8, 2009 —

Advertisers have never shied away from using sex to sell their products because, as the old adage goes, sex sells. And over the last decade, some fast food chains have upped the ante with more sexual innuendo in their television and print advertisements.

There's an entire genre of racy fast food ads, like the Hardee's promotion that talks to consumers about "creamy balls" and "happy holes" for its biscuit holes campaign.

Then there's the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's promotion called "Hot Chicks Eating Burgers," in which the two chains, both owned by CKE Restaurants, ask for video submission of attractive women doing just that.

But some people say the ad campaigns have gone too far.

"It seems an entire industry is set on trying to push every bound of sexual innuendo in order to sell something like a hamburger," said Dan Isett, Parents Television Council public policy director.

In one Carl's Jr. ad, "The Hills" star Audrina Patridge seductively eats the company's teriyaki burger, while wearing a gold bikini and rolling around on the beach discussing how it's her guilty pleasure.

That commercial follows the chain's 2005 steamy campaign for its Spicy BBQ Burger, which also stirred controversy. In that ad, scantily clad Paris Hilton seductively washed a Bentley and chowed down on the restaurant's massive beefy burger.

Burger King has also gotten in on the controversial action.

One Burger King print ad from Singapore gets even racier, making a not-so veiled reference to oral sex. The top right-hand corner of the ad proclaims: "It just tastes better."

Below that declaration is an image of a woman in profile with her mouth wide open as though ready to take in a lengthy sandwich right in front of her. Across the bottom of the ad are the words, "It'll blow your mind away."

"They are simply beyond the pale. These are great American brands with great products. There are better ways to sell a product than this," Isett said.

Companies Respond to Racy Ad Claims

But burger-makers aren't the only fast food outlets turning to sexier ads. Sandwich maker Quiznos is running a television ad campaign where a hot oven tells an employee to put the chain's new foot-long sandwich inside it. The oven -- in a deep after-dark-type voice -- goes on to tell the employee to say the price of the sandwich more sexily.

The owner of Hardees and Carl's Jr. said in a statement the companies' ads are "intended to communicate the core message of our premium quality food to our target audience of Young, Hungry Guys. We do not aim to exclude or offend any other group."

Burger King said its ad "did not run in the U.S. or any other markets ... and generated positive consumer sales."

That means, in general, these types of ads won't go away.