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Carl's Jr. Fetus Ads Creepier Than a Jr. High School Health Film


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April 11, 2005

Carl's Jr. Fetus Ads Creepier Than a Jr. High School Health Film

David Kiley

I've never been quite sure when creepy works as a creative device in ads. But one thing I feel confident of...it doesn't work when the advertiser is selling me food.

Carl's Jr., the fast food chain, launched an ad featuring a fetus, yes a fetus, talking to his Mother about the Spicy BBQ Six Dollar hamburger with jalapenos she's been eating. At one point, the fetus yanks on his umbilical chord to get his Mother's attention like it was a butler's bell. The fetus warns his Mother to go easy on the spicy stuff or he'll come out early. "It Aint For Babies," the voiceover of the ad concludes.

I don't want to be a stick in the special sauce here. But a talking fetus creeps me out, especially for selling me lunch. The other problem here is association. The last time I recall seeing a fetus in an ad, it was created by a right-to-life organization. So, sorry Carl's Jr., but I can't help but associate your product in this case with an abortion. The ads are done by Mendelsohn/Zien, Los Angeles. This is an agency known for pushing the envelope when it comes to taste and appropriateness. I hate fast food joints anyway. But this ad is enough to make me drive into a Jack-In-The-Box.

08:33 AM

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I agree, anyting that makes u think of abortion can't be good.

Posted by: That Dude from Philly at April 21, 2005 10:54 AM

Yes, bad taste, any use of a fetus in an ad would be bad taste...a "fetus" is a contingent life, & very creepy, like a corpse or something, except that the fetus lives at the discretion of the mother, whereas the corpse can never live.

Obviously, when you even use the term "fetus" in conversation it usually means it'll never see the light of day. Or else you'd use the word "baby."

Hmm, yes, definitely bad taste..

Posted by: cassandra at April 21, 2005 04:06 PM

What about General Electric's beautiful ads for 4D ultrasound technology? A baby in the womb isn't creepy - it's a human being with feelings - and obstensibly, gas from Carl's Jr. I'm sure the ad is something young mothers and fathers can totally relate to.

Posted by: jcross at April 22, 2005 02:22 AM

It seems that the general problem is that society has trained you to think of unborn babies as disposable blobs. The problem with the ad may be that it connects with your conscience.

Posted by: Geoff at April 22, 2005 07:50 AM

Lighten up, pro-life complainers...perhaps if the fetus was drinking a chocolate shake you'd feel better.

Posted by: Liz at May 2, 2005 03:56 PM

Mouthing off to your mom before you're even born is NOT cute. How disrespectful of mothers in general. Kind of fits in with the general women-as-objects frat boy theme of CJ ads which seem to have written off women in general as a target market. Just from the ads I can recall, women are depicted as mechanical bull-humping, burger-fellating, screaming-at-boyfriend-to-open-the-door, non-entities which exist for the purpose of male fantasy or service. It's rare that ads offend me, but when the anti-woman theme is carried through over multiple ad campaigns, it's enough to decide not to eat there. Geoff, why would this ad connect with someone's conscience? It's an animation of a fetus talking like a bratty 10-yr old. If anything, this makes abortion seem an attractive alternative. Treating mothers like crap doesn't enhance the value we place on motherhood and the gift of life. And joking about coming out early is certainly not funny to those who are in hi-risk pregnancies or have lost a child to miscarriage.

Posted by: me at May 2, 2005 05:27 PM

please. let's all remember that the payoff of having more babies be wanted babies is having fewer crimes, and add that those same people that care so much about preserving life don't give a damn about those kids once their born.

Further, the distubing nature of the add is that this baby obviously doesn't care about it's mother, the umbilical chord butler bell, and (what the article never quite deals with) the baby physically threatening his own mother. It's abhorent. But I guess that living in a culture that doesn't really care about mothers or over-population makes people think it's "okay" to shill for business this way.

Posted by: jy at May 2, 2005 05:57 PM

Are you people getting bad advice on what makes people buy fast food? You go from a fetus, to Paris Hilton, looking, & acting like she would like to make a fetus. Please!!!! Quit trying to sell sex & get back to selling good food.B/T/W I & my whole family love Carl's Jr.food just because it's goooooood.........

Posted by: Ms. Kay at May 21, 2005 09:17 PM

I don't need a skinny white girl shaking her ass on t.v. to tell me to buy a burger. She's not hot and I won't be back to Carl's Jr. They want men I say I go to Jack in the Box.

Posted by: vicke french at May 24, 2005 04:08 PM

wow, it's just an ad. how crazy is "me"? By the sounds of it I bet you get offended a lot more than you lead on. I haven't seen the ad but it sounds kinda funny. Doesn't really sound to be supporting mother abuse. The other ads definitely objectify women, but this is advertising, isn't it? Isn't marketing about objectifying and labeling people, men and women (consumers)? But whatever, I mean, if I'm spending my time examining the political implications of an advertisement selling hamburgers, I should peace out.

Posted by: p-yoce at May 25, 2005 12:42 PM

all the Carl's Jr. ads are a turn-off. Besides the overt sexual content I am offended by the sloppy eating habits, gooey sauce dripping on a woman's tight blouse and leering boys, sweaty ballplayers, the fetus and it's threat to "take something with it",the guy hunched over his plate with runny eggs dripping from the fork and his mouth, and now the simulation of the famous Paris sex video. All in bad taste and a stomach turner. Definitely a eterrent to eating their food. Whoever approves these ads should be fired.

Posted by: Judy at May 25, 2005 01:19 PM

The fetus in the womb was creepy and seemingly bad taste, the guy fixing the baby bottle and then sitting down w/his paper and drinking from the bottle - really!

But the Paris ad - really goes over the edge. Apparently, Carl's Jr has hired new advertising people and they are really OUT THERE!

Posted by: Mapels at May 26, 2005 12:37 PM

Based on your recent ads, I will never buy anything from a Carl's Jr again!

Posted by: Fred Kroon at May 26, 2005 02:06 PM

I haven't eaten at Carl's Jr. for about four years BECAUSE of their ads. Their ads disgust me. Especially the fetus commercial. That really was distasteful and left a very bad taste in my mouth. It's either people eating like PIGS with mouths open and food spilling out everywhere; fetus' yanking on their mother's womb or women used as sex objects to try and sell their "hamburgers?". The Paris commercial doesn't bother me so much because of the sexual (if that's what you want to call that) content, but that the commercial is for an ad for a 'hamburger', not a car, carwash or bathing suit, as one would assume looking at the commercial.

Posted by: Judy at May 26, 2005 03:34 PM

I think the latest ads with Paris Hilton are disgusting. I will not be spending our money at Carl Jrs. anytime soon.

Posted by: Paula at May 26, 2005 08:54 PM

Untill it is at least two weeks old a "Fetus" Has no inteligents no "Feelings" it is the equivalant to a computer booting up following a set sequance of rutines, only diferant is the fetus/baby takes 20 years to programe, and all you pro lifers never seem to think of that do you ? ya lets over populate the world with children that are un-wanted! briliant strategy folks.

Stupid is what I say it is, way to out of reality to the point it is simply a stupid add in the face of common sense. A beter add would have been them simply saying "Hey people we think we make dam good food ! you should come in n give it a shot" If you hate the comerciles so much then rather then whine like the typicle bunch of so n so groups try SUGESTING a more reasonable comercile !

So now why are you all trying to assign some higher meaning to it ?

Posted by: pony at May 27, 2005 01:25 PM

I don't have any comment on the fetus ad as I have not seen it, but I did just watch the Paris Hilton commercial and do not see what was so "pornographic" about it. Yes, I understand this: what does Paris in a slinky bathing suit washing a high priced car, getting wet and soapy, have to do with a burger? But come on now. As the production company has said, Paris is the "it" girl right now and so of course companies of all sorts will want to use her in their ads. The ad itself was a play on Paris' phrase (That's hot!) and Paris as a beauty. There are lots of commercials on TV that throw you off once you see what product it's for because the commercial itself has nothing to do with the product. Prime example - GEICO. What does a gecko doing the "Robot Dance" have to do with auto insurance?

Posted by: Stephanie at May 27, 2005 02:23 PM

What's up with the commercials? I hate the Paris Hilton commercial and if it comes on again we will not go to the restaurants anymore! We love your food and go there frequently. Would you try explaining the mentality of that commercial? My children were sitting there with me when it came on !

Posted by: Patti Page at May 27, 2005 04:19 PM

Disgusting ads = disgusting food?? I think probably so. I will never choose to eat there!

Posted by: Anne at May 27, 2005 10:56 PM

Remember when we all wanted soft-porn and icky advertising to venture away from network television and onto cable where it belonged? Now here we are again, whining about it. I haven't seen the fetus commercial, but I can already tell... it's not real! I cannot believe so many people are trying to read so much into a commercial spot that is really only emphasizing that their burgers are spicy. Stick to PBS, cable is not for babies.

Geoff, I think you hit the nail on the head.

As for Paris Hilton, like her or not, she draws attention and it's beginning to look like she may be one of the best campaign ads they've had. If I looked like that I would probably be willing to peddle burgers on a Bentley, if the price was right, and I know some of you complainers would be out there rolling around too. I have never had a Carl's Jr. (yet), but yes, that must be one hot and spicy burger!

Posted by: Donna at May 28, 2005 03:15 PM

My daughter has just started a job at Carl's Jr. My first job 27 years ago was at a Carl's Jr. in Van Nuys California. I thought it was kind of cute that she was working there now. We don't watch television. I heard about the ad on the radio, did an internet search and found this column. I had no idea the fast food industry was so hard up for attention that they would resort to such repulsive campaigns. I am going to ask my daughter to review this material and suggest she look elsewhere for her employment. I am a little uncomfortable with her passing burgers over the counter to guys who may be associating that burger with sexual fantasies.

Aren't there enough outlets for this kind of content? For goodness sakes, can't someone make a burger they can sell as a burger?

Posted by: Suzanne R. at June 1, 2005 05:24 PM

waa waa waa! you know what? i've noticed a lot of people complain about the "fetus" comercial as well as the Paris Hilton Comercial.

here's an idea: Don't watch it! change the God Damned channel and watch barney! or is the color purple offensive to you people as well?

geez! it's YOU people that get good shows that aren't reality tv crap cancel!

once again, if you don't want to watch it or see it, then change the channel. are your kids watching it behind your back? then get rid of your TV and get a fish tank! it doesn't matter what you do, your kids are still going to watch it...

you really think that the average 8th grader hasn't seen at least one soft core porn movie? come on! girls are starting to grow boobs at the age of 9, boys AND girls wonder about their sexuality that early, so you might as well talk to them and let them know that the "evil paris hilton comercial" is just for advertising... it may not be right, but it's still an advertising tool. hey prunes, sex sells, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Posted by: Alex Velez at June 12, 2005 06:20 PM

Pony - okay, maybe Carls Jr could just say they have good hamburgers, but to suggest that you "come n and give it a shot." What are you saying? It's okay to shoot things. There are too many people already in the world with guns. Why promote more violence. ... and to start out with "Hey people" - are we promoting inpolitness now? Let's make everyone happy and simply say, "Carls Jr - we sell hamburgers" ... but of course what about those of us that don't have money to buy hamburgers? That could be insulting to them.

Posted by: Bratislava at June 23, 2005 07:34 AM

I just watched the ad regarding the chicken - the last line being that the only thing a chicken is good for is eating. I found this to be offensive. Human beings seem to think everything on this earth is for our exploitation and/or consumption. I ate at Carl's recently, but I will not eat there anymore.

Posted by: Christy Allen at July 22, 2005 08:51 PM

Carls Jr has the most repulsive ads ever!

Posted by: duck_tail at July 29, 2005 09:02 PM

It isnt that great a commercial.. It is kinda rude.. if you havent seen it here is a link

http://www.adage.com/shared/includes/spotwin.html?vid=carlsjr-baby05.asf

Posted by: Sam at August 16, 2005 11:39 PM

I once worked in advertising, and my less-than scrupulous-boss (who was less concerned about quality) thought he'd impart me with a 'nuggest of industry wisdom': "a really bad/tasteless ad will generate heaps of publicity." Because it stood out from the rest of course.

Albeit that could leave your would-be customers associating your products with bad taste and a bad rep, in my opinion.

If *enough* people are turned off by the ads and hence avoid going to Carl's Jr, well, someone ought to fire those fool ad agency people right? Otherwise it's another justifiable advertising campaign.

Now my turn to bitch. Why did Paris Hilton agree to sell burgers in that ad anyway? Daddy not giving her enough weekly allowance? Hardly demonstrates her good taste and business acumen in marketing her "Paris Hilton brand name".

Posted by: observer at September 14, 2005 09:06 PM

I once worked in advertising, and my less-than scrupulous-boss (who was less concerned about quality) thought he'd impart me with a 'nuggest of industry wisdom': "a really bad/tasteless ad will generate heaps of publicity." Because it stood out from the rest of course.

Albeit that could leave your would-be customers associating your products with bad taste and a bad rep, in my opinion.

If *enough* people are turned off by the ads and hence avoid going to Carl's Jr, well, someone ought to fire those fool ad agency people right? Otherwise it's another justifiable advertising campaign.

Now my turn to bitch. Why did Paris Hilton agree to sell burgers in that ad anyway? Daddy not giving her enough weekly allowance? Hardly demonstrates her good taste and business acumen in marketing her "Paris Hilton brand name".

Posted by: Observer at September 14, 2005 09:16 PM

they are all gross. I'm put off because they objectify women more than everything else. the rest of the adds are gross too, does anyone remember the "Cheesepaper' ads they had?? gross. all the sloppy goo its so unapetizing, i would never eat there even if their food was good. theres other places with great food that dont insult my gender. i remeber the commercial where his girlfriend came by and was outside knocking, and he was like "leave me alone...I'm eatin'" it was so rude I'm tired of there obvious bad attitude towards women, but i don't eat there at lunch or dinner and when i go for lunch with my friends we don't go there. anywhere else in town but there! one of their higher ups was on tv saying how they didn't care if it offended women because their target audience was men. well...nuff said!

Posted by: hi at September 15, 2005 10:19 PM

All you right wing bible humpers SUCK!! You don't have an open mind what so ever. Who cares what you think? They are not trying to appeal to old farts like yourselves-they are going after the younger generation who likes sex and humor. So deal with this and shut the hell up. I wish I could move all of you self-minded thinkers to one location only, so I wouldn't have to hear you bitch. Bring on the Carl Jr's...I'm hungry!

Posted by: jc at January 3, 2006 01:59 PM

...and there's jc, the mouthpiece for the MTV fuckstick morons that are in much-too-abundant supply. Yes, let's pull out the tired and completely-played "you just don't have an open mind" drivel.

By the way, just what the fuck does that mean? Because someone may have morals and standards, who will actually say when something is WRONG or STUPID, that constitutes a "closed mind" in your pathetic book?

Carl's Jr. sucks ass...it's sad their moronic frat fuck marketing campaign apparently works, seeing how they've employed it for years. One thing is for sure, I won't spend a dime at a business that uses stupid fucking taglines like "without us, some guys would starve." But it obviously hits home with dipshits like you.

Posted by: oc at February 2, 2006 01:15 PM

...and there's jc, the mouthpiece for the MTV morons that are in much-too-abundant supply. Yes, let's pull out the tired and completely-played "you just don't have an open mind" drivel.

By the way, just what the hell does that mean? Because someone may have morals and standards, who will actually say when something is WRONG or STUPID, that constitutes a "closed mind" in your pathetic book?

Carl's Jr. sucks...it's sad their moronic frat marketing campaign apparently works, seeing how they've employed it for years. One thing is for sure, I won't spend a dime at a business that uses stupid taglines like "without us, some guys would starve." But it obviously hits home with people like you.

Posted by: oc at February 2, 2006 01:18 PM

I've joined the party a little late in the day to comment on Paris Hilton or the "Fetus" furror...

However, anyone who has truly been paying attention to the campaign for Carl's over the last 5 to 6 years will see that the subtext of all their commercials is that yes, WOMEN are here to be demeaned and also...that MEN are nothing but stupid, cro-magnen like creatures who have the eating habits of barnyard animals and the brain capacity of an actual fetus.

People only pay attention to the obivious. Carl's Jr. is an equal opportunity hater of all its customers, derisive in its message and portrayal of the average consumer.

I say "FUCK YOU" to CARL'S Jr, as they have been saying to me since back around 1999.

I am one man who would RATHER starve than eat the "cheeezzeze" coated crap this piece of shit company has to offer.

Oh, and I have no idea who they are, but I have such a strong mental image of the chortling, scratching "AD EXECS"(?) who pinched out this bunch of television garbage. What's next? Some hairy, fat slob in a stained wife beater eating a jalapeno burger on the crapper? Wouldn't put it past them. Sadly, in the society I see around me, there would probably be many who would gleefully respond by purchasing. Yikes! Yuck!!!

Posted by: ERIC at January 6, 2007 04:31 PM


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