Just last week I wrote about the dangers of creating a controversial ad campaign, and lo and behold, there’s a new one doing the rounds. Restaurant Brands (the good folk who own KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut in New Zealand) have decided to launch their new brand, Carl’s Jr, with a controversial ad campaign that was created in the gun-lovin’, open-minded US of A. Carl’s Jr have been producing these raunchy, semi-porno style of ads for some time now in the States.

No big surprise that New Zealand’s Commercials Approval Bureau (CAB) banned the ad. And no big surprise either that James Bickford, New Zealand managing director of global branding agency Interbrand, said the CAB's ruling was a blow for Restaurant Brands. Rather than defending the “creativity” or merit of the ad, he simply bitches and moans that as a challenger brand the only way Carl’s Jr can make an impact is via TV. He said “For a challenger brand coming into a market, TV is the platform to get the message across to the widest audience in the fastest way." Even worse, Restaurant Brands chief executive Russel Creedy said it would be too expensive to make a Carl’s Jr TV ad in New Zealand and thus they’re using foreign material. With the advertising crowd that he hangs out with there’s no doubt it would be too expensive.

The two of them show typical Neanderthal thinking: that’s how it’s always been done so why change it? Quite simply because the consumer demands it! Sure TV might get big numbers but who’s watching the ads? According to the November 2012 issue of NZ Marketing Magazine (NZMM), 31% of people surveyed fast forward through the ads. I think it’s higher. Much higher. And I’m probably right because in the same issue of NZMM, in an expensive advertorial feature paid for by TV New Zealand (TVNZ), they go to great lengths to defend the good ol’ TV ad. TVNZ says that “The 30 second TV spot remains the corner stone of television” and that “Nielsen ratings show over 95% of Kiwis have watched TV in the last week”. What exactly they watched is open to debate but it most likely wasn’t the ads.

To make matters worse, now that Restaurant Brands can’t get their ad on TV they’re going into social media. Hooray! That will sort out McDonalds, Wendy's and Burger King.

Anyway – here’s a few suggestions for Russel:

  1. You can’t be a pimp and a prostitute too. Don’t bitch about the cost of making ads for Carl’s Jr when you spend so much on those crappy picnic TV ads for KFC. No one believes you’re strapped for cash.
  2. Make a decent Kiwi produced TV ad. Too expensive is bullshit and you know it. Run a competition for film students and get people involved in your brand. Do something unique instead of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That’s the definition of madness (and Neanderthal advertising thinking).

Brands owe it to consumers to lift their game and that doesn’t mean social media. It means that you should respect consumers. We’ve moved on and it’s time Bickford, Creedy et al move out of their caves and acknowledged it.