Sometimes there’s just no beating fortuitous timing.
Big case in point: Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s finished shooting a campaign featuring model Kate Upton just two weeks before Upton and the world learned that she had been chosen as the cover model for the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
The chains’ TV ad for their Southwest Patty Melt was filmed in L.A. on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, and Upton’s choice for the cover of the swimsuit issue was announced on “Late Night with David Letterman” on Feb. 13.
True, Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s have long employed sexy TV spots/videos featuring hot models and celebrities to grab the attention of the “young, hungry guys” who are their core customer base. And often, as CMO Brad Haley points out, these two regional fast-food chains have managed to pick and feature celebs –- like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian -– just as they’re “hitting their pop-culture zeniths.”
But the choice of Upton –- whose star had been rising partly as a result of being chosen as “Rookie of the Year” for last year’s SI swimsuit issue –- turned out to be a buzz-driving bonanza on a scope that has Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s thanking their lucky stars.
The QSRs’ 30-second “Drive-In” TV ad shows Upton striking various steamy poses after eating a Southwest Patty Melt (a classic Patty Melt spiced up with jalapeños, pepper-jack cheese and Santa Fe sauce) alone in her car at a drive-in.
According to Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s, the online-only, 60-second cut of the ad has, as of the start of April, been viewed more than 3.6 million times, and the 30-second spot and two behind-the-scenes videos have pushed total views (by fans in 220 countries) to nearly 4.5 million. Not to mention some 627 million no-cost impressions for the QSR brands generated through media coverage of Upton’s appearance in their TV spot/videos.
The 60-second version of the ad was #1 on Ad Age’s Viral Video Chart for March 8, and #10 the following week, and YouGov’s BrandIndex showed Hardee’s having registered a 24-point jump in buzz among 18- to-34-year-old males following the swimsuit cover announcement.
In addition, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have added more than 120,000 Facebook fans since the ad launched. And in the week after the 60-second video was posted, Hardee’s’ site saw visitors jump by 104% over the previous week, and Carl’s Jr.’s’ site saw an 83% jump.
As for Twitter, more than 5,000 tweets, reaching more than 12.4 million people, have mentioned the sandwich, Kate@KateUpton, the ad and the QSR brands.
Haley, who praised agency 72andSunny for “creating such a memorable ad” with Upton, crows that Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s is “now in the enviable position of being approached by celebrities who want to appear in our ads because of the pop-culture buzz they generate. I can’t think of any other fast-food brand that would be viewed that way by rising stars.”
And while he doesn’t cite sales numbers, Haley confirms that young, hungry guys have been hot for the Southwest Patty Melt, as well as the chains’ Upton videos.
The swimsuit issue’s always-phenomenal sales and buzz were given additional boosts this year by Sports Illustrated’s own beefed-up digital offerings and campaigns – no doubt feeding the overall viral buzz that has coincidentally benefitted Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s.
In addition to the issue’s video-on-demand and TV special elements, SI this year offered a paid iPad version (enhanced with videos/slideshows) of the issue.
Paid print/digital subscribers (under SI’s “all access” subscription model) were offered both no-additional-charge and “premium” paid versions of an iOS app (this year’s premium-version price was bumped up from $1.99 to $6.99). Also, through a free app sponsored by DirecTV, SI subscribers and newsstand buyers could view video interviews with the models –- and a DirecTV ad featuring Up