Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have announced a new approach to advertising — or at least, the abandonment of an old approach — and a group of conservative Christian mothers is taking the credit, saying, “Our diligence has paid off.” It’s a rare issue on which the group of conservative women may find themselves on the same side as many liberal feminists, if for different reasons. However, a release by the group on Friday morning appears to credit conservative values as the motivator for Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s big change.
One Million Moms is a conservative activist group. It’s not clear how many members they have who, perhaps, choose not to subscribe to social media, or simply do not follow the organization there, but the Facebook page for the group shows fewer than 100,000 followers, leaving their actual numbers open to speculation. However many members there are, the typical modus operandi for their activism is this: find something objectionable (often a television program), and provide like-minded followers with a form letter and contact information for advertisers, backers, and proprietors of the matter.
In the case of Hardee’s, One Million Moms has definitely been battling them for some time. Inquisitr reported in 2014 that the group had launched a campaign calling one ad pornographic, and asking consumers to call and complain. On Friday, the group took credit, saying, “Our voice has been heard,” as well as expressing that Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s were responding to a boycott by religious households.
“Conservative families have avoided their restaurants for years primarily because of the company’s ads and the soft porn CKE was producing. It appears Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have finally listened to our concerns and are making a drastic change to their advertising strategy.”
CKE Restaurants is the owner of both Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
However, this group, and conservatives in general, are not alone in expressing disapproval for the ads that Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have used featuring women in scanty clothing doing sexually suggestive activities while eating burgers. In 2013, Jezebel — a site that describes itself as devoted to “women’s empowerment” — also decried the ads, focusing on Carl’s Jr.
Liberal and feminist groups have also circulated petitions. There are numerous petitions on several sites calling for an end to the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s commercials, describing them as sexist, and as objectifying women for a patriarchal hetereosexual male approval, but here’s a single example.
In fact, Entrepreneur reports that over half of the people surveyed found the commercials offensive — however, they continued in part because CEO Andrew Puzder wanted them to be offensive. He is specifically quoted as saying that if no one complained about an ad, he’d ask the advertising crew to make the next one even more sexual.
If that’s the case, what changed Puzder’s mind? Well, there’s no evidence that anyone did. The change in Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s may stem, instead, from the fact that Puzder has stepped down as CEO.
In fact, he’s been facing opposition outside the restaurant business. As the New York Times reported in February, he was one of Donald Trump’s cabinet picks — and withdrew his name from consideration when it appeared that pressure from Democrats and liberal groups, as well as certain Congressional conservatives, was likely to impede his confirmation.
Hardee’s released a video implying that the change is about booting out the immature hyper-sexed attitude and replacing it with a focus on the roots of the business: a good burger.
The company did not directly attribute the change to Andrew Puzder’s exit, but the characterization of the sexualized commercials as being a “young guy” thing directly reflects his words. In the Entrepreneur story linked above, he says that the brand took on his personality, and that it centers around “hungry young guys.”
“I’m 64, I want to be a young hungry guy.”
While One Million Moms may claim the victory, it appears that there were multiple factors in the change to Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr’s advertising style — and not least among them might be represented in Puzder’s own words:
“I used to hear, brands take on the personality of the CEO. And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.”
[Featured Image by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images]