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Super Tacky!

by | Feb 1, 2015

For many communicators, Sunday’s Super Bowl also was an annual debate about which Super Bowl ad campaigns had the most impact is fun and entertaining. And usually there are one or two ads that border on tacky and offend people. They are the Super Tacky ads.

This year’s chief offender appears to be Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s with its Charlotte McKinney naked All Natural “Too Hot for TV” ad that was deemed unfit for broadcast TV. When Carl’s Jr. posted the banned ad on YouTube it went viral.

You have to wonder why a creative firm and a brand would be so overt about using sex to sell something that doesn’t have anything to do with, well, sex. This overplayed tacky advertising trick usually fails to build brand or generate sales for the associated brand.

In the case of Carl’s Jr., Charlotte McKinney may be the winner, both financially and building her repertoire as a super model. The grass fed burgers? Not so much.

Communications Blogger Richard Becker noted, “The commercial is supposed to sell a new hamburger for the quick service franchise, but mostly it sells McKinney.” Sex sells sex.

The creative just doesn’t sell burgers, in my opinion. If this were an ad for a romantic trip, or lingerie, or sex-related products, or something related to being naked literally or metaphorically it would work. But it’s not. It’s for a sloppy, greasy-looking burger. And that’s not sexy, organic or not.

The Feminism Issue


Defenders of the ad claim that critics are prudes. That defense is antiquated for the 21st century. I mean for crying-out loud the ad uses fruit and produce to depict female body parts with a naked woman behind the fruit.

Are we really having this conversation? Is the ad appropriate for family viewing in front of the entire nation? Not in a modern era where women should be esteemed for their contribution to community, business and family alike, as opposed to their bodies.

The abuse of sex in Super Bowl ads comes up frequently. From Go Daddy’s cheesy Super Bowl bimbo ads of the 2000s to Carl’s Jr.’s contested attempts to make its burger a super model success.

Sooner or later, brands will figure out how to be sexy without being tacky or demeaning gender. Whether the end occurs through collective evolution or negative criticism like this post remains to be seen. Certainly, brands like GoDaddy have felt the brunt of negative publicity and responded, accordingly.

What do you think of the Carl’s Jr ad?

About the Author

Geoff Livingston

Geoff Livingston is president of Tenacity5 Media (http://tenacity5.com) and an award-winning online marketing strategist. Geoff provides content, social media and copywriting services, and loves to create big moments online that generate significant attention and new customers. A former journalist, Geoff continues to write and has authored five books. He is also an avid photographer. You can talk with him on Twitter at @geoffliving.


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