“It’s Like an Orgasm in My Mouth”

That’s just one of the many uncensored comments in the new Fake Restaurant campaign from Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. When you can coax quotes like that out of random customers, you’re going to have the kind of raw reactions that make for a successful and noticeable marketing campaign.

Pulling the wool over customers eyes seems to be the latest tactic in fast food marketing campaigns. First it was the fake discontinuing of the Whopper for Whopper Freakout. Then it was passing your pasta off as high-end pasta from an Italian restaurant for Pizza Hut’s new Tuscani pasta.

A couple days ago, the latest variation on this strategy came from Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s with their new “Fake Restaurant” campaign. The premise: a fake restaurant passes itself off as a “boutique” burger shop, selling premium angus burgers for $14 each. The catch? All the burgers being served are the same burgers available at your average Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s.

One failure of the Pizza Hut ad is that it was cut to be a 30-second spot, so only a couple customer reactions are included. The Whopper Freakout ads worked because the customer reactions were raw, and they were real. With their new “Fake Restaurant” campaign, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have fully committed to the strategy – and it shows.

Read on below for my analysis of this campaign and to view some of the videos from the “Fake Restaurant.”

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s set up five individuals, Shelby, Tom, Josh, Chris and Lisa. On the website Fakerestaurant.com, as well as the Fake Restaurant YouTube channel you can view not just the sizzle reel, but also tv spots made around each individual and the directors cut of each individuals experience. Additionally, there are clips of interviews with some of the unwitting marks explaining how they got set up and who set them up.

At the time the Whopper Freakout ads first came out, I praised the idea as “genius.” I was less enthusiastic about the Pizza Hut ads, as they didn’t seem to be made for web consumption, and the heavy editing killed a lot of the powerful effect by limiting the raw customer reactions. As with Whopper Freakout, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have fully committed to their Fake Restaurant campaign, and I love it. Even though it’s a copycat advertising strategy, it appears they have executed it flawlessly. As the Whopper Freakout ads showed, there is definite power in using the reactions and comments of real people in your ads. I say bravo Carl’s Jr. and Hardees. Bravo.

Click over to the Fake Restaurant YouTube channel to see more clips, or just watch the “Sizzle Reel” below.

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