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Which Will Sell More Carl’s Jr. Burgers: iJustine or Eye Candy?

CKE Restaurants is conducting a bit of advertising-effectiveness research to which every marketer should pay close attention because it could answer several key consumer-marketing questions. One is, what’s a better ad medium for grabbing Millennials’ attention, old-school TV or 21st-century video? But the more-important question is, what’s better, hot or hip?

Hot, of course, is CKE’s latest “burger babe” TV spot, this one featuring Audrina Patridge of MTV’s “The Hills” lounging on the beach in a tiny bikini and eating a Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Teriyaki Six Dollar Burger. She’s skinny, the burger’s huge, and the young men who make up the two chains’ core-customer base are nodding their approval of both. 

At the same time, CKE is coming at that same customer base through a more-hip, more-contemporary ad media than spot TV. Earlier this month, Justine Ezarik–a 25-year-old in Pittsburgh known to her many online fans as iJustine–and eight others who have developed cult followings for their YouTube creations unleashed videos (that’s iJustine, above left) explaining (i.e. promoting) how they eat a Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger.

CKE gave each of the nine young people a flat fee and commissioned them to create videos about how they eat their burgers. What CKE spent on these nine videos likely is a small fraction of what it invested in agency Mendelsohn Zien’s production of the 30-second spot/cable TV commercial with Audrina.

iJustine and the other eight YouTubers have a combined total of 3.8 million subscribers to their sites, according to Adweek. Think of that number as roughly the number of households that watched “House” on Fox last week. It’s an impressive number. So is iJustine’s claim to 589,000 Twitter followers and 25,000 Facebook fans.

As of 7 p.m. on June 24, the 66-second Portobello Mushroom Burger video by YouTube stars Nigahiga (a comedic group that includes Ryan Higa, Sean Fujiyoshi and others) had been viewed 2,448,441 times (can your Web site come close to that number?).
    As of 7 p.m. on June 24, the first day  the Audrina commercial was made available to news media, a Google search for “Carl’s Jr. Audrina Patridge” turned up 56,500 links. Not bad for one day of PR.

And CKE isn’t finished: It also has launched a “Hot Chicks Eating Burgers” contest that invites young women to submit videos of themselves eating a Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s burger. So there’s more seductive TV spots to come. Tell me you don’t want to be one of the lucky folks at Mendelsohn Zien who’ll get to screen those videos. I’m just sayin’.

So you decide: Which of these marketing efforts will be most effective in selling Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s burgers? Sexy or snarky? TV or video? Ooh-la-la or LOL? OK, enough. Time to vote. [sorry, poll is closed]

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