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

Posted by: David Kiley on April 11, 2005

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.

Reader Comments

That Dude from Philly

April 21, 2005 10:54 AM

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

cassandra

April 21, 2005 4:06 PM

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..

jcross

April 22, 2005 2:22 AM

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.

Geoff

April 22, 2005 7:50 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.

Liz

May 2, 2005 3:56 PM

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

me

May 2, 2005 5:27 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.

jy

May 2, 2005 5:57 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.

Ms. Kay

May 21, 2005 9:17 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.........

vicke french

May 24, 2005 4:08 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.

p-yoce

May 25, 2005 12:42 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.

Judy

May 25, 2005 1:19 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.

Mapels

May 26, 2005 12:37 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!

Fred Kroon

May 26, 2005 2:06 PM

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

Judy

May 26, 2005 3:34 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.

Paula

May 26, 2005 8:54 PM

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

pony

May 27, 2005 1:25 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 ?

Stephanie

May 27, 2005 2:23 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?

Patti Page

May 27, 2005 4:19 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 !

Anne

May 27, 2005 10:56 PM

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

Donna

May 28, 2005 3:15 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!

Suzanne R.

June 1, 2005 5:24 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?

Alex Velez

June 12, 2005 6:20 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.

Bratislava

June 23, 2005 7:34 AM

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.

Christy Allen

July 22, 2005 8:51 PM

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.

duck_tail

July 29, 2005 9:02 PM

Carls Jr has the most repulsive ads ever!

Sam

August 16, 2005 11:39 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

observer

September 14, 2005 9:06 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".

Observer

September 14, 2005 9:16 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".

hi

September 15, 2005 10:19 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!

jc

January 3, 2006 1:59 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!

oc

February 2, 2006 1:15 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.

oc

February 2, 2006 1:18 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.

ERIC

January 6, 2007 4:31 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!!!

chris

November 29, 2007 5:50 PM

almost all of the comments posted demonstrate just how successful the carls jr ads have been at targeting their primary audience. the average 15-35 year old single guy doesn't give a fuck about any of the issues you have brought up, and would just laugh or think you were crazy if they read this -- and it's not because the majority of young guys are women hating neanderthal low lifes. if you think that, you are truly delusional. most of them are good guys. but, the commercials tap into the male mind and give guys permission to be guys in spite of the misguided nagging of their mothers, girlfriends, and wives, to mold themselves into what women think they should be, to think and act the way women would in that situation.

that kind of feminist idea is an error in thinking based on wrong assumptions. it villifies the stereotypical masculine male and is another form of sexism that still happens to be politically correct. most of the comments are laughable and you almost think the person is doing a farcical spoof to show how ridiculous the other comments are, until you get to the end and realize they are completely serious. get some perspective folks.

try to get some understanding of the male mind and instead of demonizing it, realize that whether instilled by nature or God, men are wired to think and do things differently than women. the ads are meant to appeal to these normal, average guys (the majority of whom are not evil women haters), and capture their attention, whether its crude humor or sexual overtones, most of it is lighthearted, rather than seriously promoting some extreme mistreatment of women, and very effectively does what it was designed to do.

welcome to the reality of life, which includes normal, decent stereotypically, masculine men, who happen to either think this stuff is funny or has some sex appeal that gets their attention and reflects the reality of their desire to interact with "hot" girls and everyday situations they encounter in the real world. quit living in a fantasy world where you think that you can make all guys either gay "girlfriends" or refined, emasculated eunuchs, who are like your gay friends, but happen to be attracted to you. that world doesn't exist, never will, nor should it. nothing against feminine or gay guys, just saying that it's ok to not be like that and to be a masculine, heterosexual male too. your comments and flawed thinking have blown this way out of proportion - the sinister motives and all these evil ad execs and evil guys that have been imagined, just don't exist--except in your imaginations. and young "hot" girls are gonna go to carl's jr. anyway cause they like men who are men, the ads make them laugh too when they think of the foibles of their guy, and maybe they'll see one of these cute young guys who scraped up change out of his couch to go to carls jr and get a big messy burger that he can eat sloppily at home any way he wants and hope his girlfriend doesn't walk in and complain about the mess and nag at him to chew with his mouth closed. rather, she should just accept that she cannot and should not try to change him, be more easygoing, walk up to him and give him a big ketchup-mayonnaisy kiss, ask him who's winning the big game, not disturb him any further until after the game's over, and then quietly ponder why the fact that he is so different from her, rugged, unrefined, but still tender, caring, and who ultimately is respectful of her and values her for who she is (as long as she's not trying to pick a fight during the game - because men can compartmentalize their lives like that), turns her on so much, unlike her gay “girlfriends” who discuss fashion with her. again, nothing against gay guys. just that it wouldn't work out so well for her ideal heterosexual relationship.

perhaps the greatest appeal isn't even the hot girls like paris hilton, but being drawn to and wanting to put himself in the place of the good-looking, cool masculine young guy in the commercial who can just let loose a little and not have to follow all the "good boy" rules 24/7. see for guys like us, the idea of being able to take a mental break like that (and as with most male fantasy) is much more appealing to guys like us than images of a vacation, such as a romanitc weekend in paris or even a deserted tropical beach, which the girl may be dreaming about and which catches her attention when it comes on tv. please don't make us out to be simplistic creatures with only one aspect or make us out to be inhuman, women-abusing animals who are guided only by base desires. but that doesn't mean we don't have any base desires, which we try to guide (sometimes sloppily) into the appropriate boundaries.

seriously, please think about it from another perspective instead of a knee-jerk reaction.
tolerance and understanding for all, including the marginalized, villified masculine, heterosexual male. or is it only tolerance my way or not at all? ask Anne Hutchison how that worked out for her before she went to Rhode Island.

seriously, please think about it from another perspective instead of a knee-jerk reaction.

chris

November 29, 2007 6:32 PM

one more thing. just think how refreshing and validating it was for millions of guys who watched these commercials and thought, "Awesome. finally someone who understands what its like to be a guy." that was honestly my initial reaction to many of the carls jr commercials and i loved them. because most other places, being a guy, or portraying being guy in the media, has been suffocated out as politically incorrect. carls jr has tapped into something very powerful and other advertisers are beginning to catch on.

embrace it. appreciate it. it's part of our shared humanity and it's not as bad as you make it out to be.

ps. i seriously doubt that anyone who made the fetus commercial or enjoyed it actually believes in abusive, disobedient treatment of mothers by either fetuses or young children, and seriously doubt the ad campaign had any effect on anyones views of abortion, or gave the prochoice or prolife groups any free advantageous advertising. it did one thing tho--caught the attention of the target audience.

carl w

December 17, 2007 10:37 PM

Carl's Jr. adds
This fast food chain really pushes stupidity to new lows. Watching guys spew food from their mouths while eating and talking doesn't make me hungry for a Carl's Jr. burger! And this voice over guy who sounds like he's on drugs of some kind, what is that all about? Somewhere, a bunch of add execs sat at a table and Ok'd this crap. Here's an idea, get rid of the slobbering guys and the voice over guy who's on pain killers, then fire the add execs who created these adds!

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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