Don't be gross, marketers. In this episode of "What Were They Thinking?" Melissa gets riled up about a new Carl's Jr. ad that trades in the burger joint's usual bikini clad babes with dripping burgers for some casual millennial bashing. Protip: Don't demean your target audience.

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  • rchro7

    I’ve had it with millennial bashing. The millennial generation encompasses a huge number of people. Can companies really afford to keep trashing them?

    • Melissa Ward

      You and me both! Then again, should we be surprised? Carl’s Jr. identified its target audience to be men, ages 18-34, and then assumes the only thing that could help sell their product was boobs and beautiful women. I’m no prude, but I dunno … how about you treat your customers like they have something beyond a base instinct and actually show how your burger is better than the competitors’ and tastes delicious?

      This new ad tries that, but goes with some generation bashing to boot. Could you imagine if they just had the Carl Hardees Sr. character step in, sans pathetic Carl Hardee Jr., and still tell that flashback story about going back to the roots of their product? It would have been great.

      • Samman

        Melissa, I don’t think the ad would have had any humor at all if it didn’t have the Carl Hardee Jr. character and father son dynamic. That is what Hardee’s aims to achieve to cut through the clutter of fast food advertising. It is humor and takes place in an imaginary world. Bikini models eating calorie laden burgers and an immature millennial running a billion dollar businesses don’t really exist, so it is not designed to bash or make a statement about a real group. It is imaginary, odd and funny.

        • Melissa Ward

          But the fictional story line isn’t even accurate! If that story about Carl Sr. goes the way it plays out in the full commercial, then Carl Jr. should be a member of Gen X. You can be funny without type casting millennials as immature and foolish.

          • Gary Pageau

            Isn’t even accurate? Seriously? Carl Hardee Jr. may not representative of all Millennials, but he is a character in an ad. It’s like saying Cap’n Crunch is representative of all naval captains.

            And, if anything, the Carl Hardee Sr. character is as cliche as the Jr. character. I think they are playing to extremes to get attention. And you bit the bait.

  • Tell you what. I’ll lobby advertisers to stop trashing Millennials as entitled, clueless special snowflakes if you agree to encourage them to stop characterizing everyone over the age of 50 as doddering old technology-impaired gray-hairs. Deal? Seems to me that negatively stereotyping ANYbody is a dumb advertising move.

    • Melissa Ward

      Absolutely a deal. There’s a way to have a laugh in advertising, but saying “ALL Millennials are this” or “ALL Baby Boomers are that” is lazy, in my opinion … and foolish if they’re actually your target audience.

      Needless to say, I have no interest even moreso in stepping foot into a Carl’s Jr.

    • Gary Pageau

      Exactly! As an echo-Boomer/Gen X male, I get to see myself constantly represented as a doddering technophobe or clueless “dad”, while all-knowing “mom” just smirks and smiles. And that’s not limited to ads. In mainstream TV, I get to see my generation responsible for all the world’s ills. Just makes me tune-out.

  • Bill Williams

    WW Y T? The more bikinis and bashing…. the more I buy burgers

  • Tony The Pitiful Copywriter

    Just saw the 3 minute epic (by commercial, as in TV commercials, standards). I’m not offended, but then I’m not a millenial (although I helped Mrs. Pitiful Copywriter bring 2 of them into the world). In this spot I see the results of unchecked nepotism, sexism, and a failure to learn the bones and culture of an institution. Think hard, does that sound like anybody we know? I also see an over-reliance on fad-dy technology taking the place of real face time with humans in what WIRED used to call “meat space.” At least they weren’t Tweeting each other! And I see a young man who doesn’t know his own history. The commercial is about a generation gap, of sorts, but I don’t see it as a millenial basher. The spot needed to cast a Carl Sr. and a Carl Jr., and in 2017 a “Jr.” is more than likely a millenial? An unsuccesful ad is often not about you. I think the male demographic they’re going after is going to see this as comedy, perhaps even thinking “hey, I know a over-privileged bro like that.” Just like when you debunk a lie, you have to repeat the lie (again) and then offer the truth, so in order to step away from sexism, CJ/H actually shows that sexism ONE MORE TIME like a greatest hits (rhymes with…) package. BTW, I don’t eat fast food anymore, but my favorite fast food ads are from those 2 nerdy guys parked at Sonic. They’re cool.

    • Melissa Ward

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! I think it was Ad Age that cemented the idea of the millennial Carl Hardee Jr (they call him the poster child millennial,, and from there I just found the ad frustrating.

      You know what I would have liked to have seen? Carl’s Jr. talk about going back to their roots, focusing on good food. You don’t need to make fun of ANYONE with that.

      • Tony The Pitiful Copywriter

        You’re right about not making fun of anyone (or demo). Why cheese off potential customers by casting them in a negative light? This reminds me of those Budweiser ads where they made fun of craft beers. And how did that work for them?