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"It's like an orgasm," says diner in latest Carl's Jr. ad

Jun 24, 2008

By Nancy Luna, Staff Writer and Blogger

The Los Angeles ad agency behind the sexy Carl's Jr. ads are now focusing on reality TV-inspired commercials.

The latest Carl's Jr. and Hardee's ad features a super fake out of customers dining at a faux Los Angeles fine dining restaurant. Unbeknownst to diners: they are chowing on Six Dollar fast-food burgers from Carl's Jr. -- not "fancy" gourmet burgers.

I just watched the aptly named "Fake Restaurant" commercial -- and it is another elaborate undertaking by Mendelsohn Zien. The Los Angeles ad firm is the mastermind behind Carl's Jr.'s sexy, messy, drippy ads. (Think, the sultry and sudsy "That's Hot" Paris Hilton commercial or the controversial Flat Buns ad.)

For this ad, the agency, created a fake white table cloth restaurant in Malibu complete with chic decor, a stone fireplace, glass stemware and valet parking. The restaurant even had "phony" reviews on display.

The experiment: Could the Six Dollar Carl's Jr./Hardee's Angus burger pass for fine dining eats -- and prices? Menu prices ranged from $14 to $20 -- more than triple the price of a regular fast-food Angus burger sold at Carl's Jr. or Hardee's.

Using hidden cameras, the commercial captures a pair of diners walking into "Grade A Restaurant" in the Malibu hills.

One of the diners is an accomplice hired by FriedFish Productions, a Los Angeles film company that specializes in reality TV productions.Carl's Jr. new ad campaign promotes a new Prime Rib Six Dollar Burger, which debuts next month in SoCal.

The paid accomplice lures a friend, dubbed "the mark," to this new "boutique" burger restaurant. Menu choices are limited to a Prime Rib burger (at right) and four varieties of gourmet Angus burgers, the server tells the diners.

In every case, the unsuspecting "mark" gives the burgers rave reviews.

The expression -- "reality is better than fiction" -- plays out well in this campaign. Carl's Jr. could not have asked for better, scripted reactions from the faked-out diners:

"Do you see this burger dude? It's colossal," one man says.

"This is a tasty burger," says another.

"It's like an orgasm," one diner says after eating a $14 Prime Rib Six Dollar burger. (That burger, by the way, is the reason for the new ad campaign. Hardee's is now serving the prime rib burger, while Carl's Jr. restaurants will get it next month.)

Beth Mansfield, a Carl's Jr. spokeswoman, said the diners were "absolutely" in the dark until the end of the meal when they paid the check. Once they were told they were part of reality TV commercial, the customers signed deals with the fast-food chain to have their mugs used for the ad. (The "real people" featured in the commercial are shown in the above photo.)

Let's hope the ad campaign works: CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, spent $1.5 million making the commercial. To boot, the chain will spend $20 million airing the ad nationally for the next 12 months.

So, does this reality TV show campaign mean Carl's Jr. is scrapping its edgy/sexy ads?

"We didn't say that," Mansfield chuckles.

To view the commercial, go to or click on the above photo.