Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sex, Advertising, and Hamburgers?

Carl's Jr. Hamburger company created a storm a couple of years ago with its commercial featuring Paris Hilton. Essentially it looks like she is making out with the car she is washing and there is no display of any burgers until the end in which she has, what appears to be, an intimate moment with beef and bun.

The response of the news media was the question, is this a bad decision? News stations discussed locally and nationally the merits of the commercial. It was viewed by hundreds of thousands on YouTube and other video sites, and was discussed over lunch by middle aged men across America. Of course, not any lunches I attended, but you get the point.

Recently I noticed on Fox News that Carl's Jr. is at it again. In the latest commercial the focus is on the new "flat bun" hamburger they have. In the "I'm Hot for Teacher" tradition of Van Halen, the class and teacher sing about the burger in a most provocative way and the news network see it as future indicators of our culture's decline. They also wonder if it is good for business. Obviously it is for Carl's, whose stock out performs McDonald's and they keep making commercials like these.

What the news networks don't understand is that companies can run such spots for a very limited time and have national attention over night due to the viral effect of people spreading the word on it. They can make a fortune off spots at the fraction of the air time budget necessary in years past. In fact, I have never seen a Carl's, Jr. commercial except on the news and on YouTube (after seeing it refereed to on the news). That may be the very thing the news networks don't like about it -- such companies really don't need the networks to be successful.
That is the power of the Internet as a marketing force and it is among the many elements of the future of marketing.

Note: Order Kevin Price's audio program The Accumulators, which explains the impact that the Internet is having on marketing and consumer behavior. It is available online here for only $10 plus p and h.

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