Adweek: Creative Behind Carl’s Jr.’s Famously Risqué Spots Launches New Agency, and an Odd Ad
by Patrick Coffee
In the not-so-distant past, Carl’s Jr.’s marketing efforts were best known for one theme: scantily clad women eating greasy burgers.
That’s no longer the case. About a year ago, the chain made a hard pivot, focusing instead on the food itself, with former CEO Andy Puzder saying such spots were no longer effective with younger audiences.
The ads starring Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and an assortment of other starlets were largely the work of creative directors Justin Hooper and Mick DiMaria, who left Carl’s longtime AOR 72andSunny right around the time the client began rethinking its strategy. Now, Hooper is back with his own agency, Undnyable, and a brand new campaign promoting an unusual client: celebrity lawyer and Better Call Saul-style TV personality Darren Kavinoky. The spot below will debut, appropriately, during Saturday Night Live this week.
“I had long been disappointed with legal advertising in general, and my previous marketing services, while professional, lacked the creative juice,” said Kavinoky in a statement. “I became aware of Undnyable … and now that I see the work, I’m not going anywhere else.”
The campaign includes various social media elements redirecting to the De-Alcohol-Orizer website. Aptly named influencer pizzaman_420 also hyped the fictional product in an Instagram video.
Hooper described Kavinoky, who was introduced to him via a shared acquaintance in the media world, as “a character” and “an amazing personality.”
The ad veteran categorizes Portland-based Undnyable as an “outsourced in-house agency,” and it’s the latest in a series of shops looking to flip, or at least tweak, the “traditional” way of doing business.
“When I exited the agency world in late 2016, I wanted to do something closer to the client side,” Hooper told Adweek. “Undnyable is designed to make brands the heroes, not agencies—not to disrespect agencies.”
So how does that work?
“There’s a trend to bring everything in-house … but there’s stagnation,” he said, adding that it’s sometimes difficult to hire creatives willing to work on a single piece of business. On the other side, agency staffers tend to “jump around” from account to account without establishing “a true understanding of the business problems that client has,” Hooper said.
Hooper said, “the idea is to have an outsourced in-house agency to bring all the skill sets you could get at an agency inside a brand.” And while many of the new boutique shops sell themselves as nonagencies, most begin to resemble traditional entities as they win more business.
Undnyable differs, according to Hooper, in that it can both act as an agency and work on the inside, helping clients use their agency partners more effectively.
One of the first projects Undnyable picked up after launching in 2017 was helping SoFi manage its own agency review, a process that eventually saw the business go to Omelet.
“We are truly a chameleon,” Hooper said, noting that Undnyable does have one or two “AOR-style” relationships in which a client retains the agency and calls upon it whenever it needs its services. Most of its work, however, is project-based.
Hooper’s agency has nine employees based in San Francisco, L.A., Seattle and Portland, with only three serving as full-time staffers. But most members of the team prefer this “gig economy” setup that provides them with more creative freedom—and Hooper sees more agencies moving in that direction.
“Agencies will never disappear because some clients need a giant agency to run and manage their day-to-day work,” he said. “[But] creatives don’t want to be trapped in one place.”
Beyond Kavinoky and SoFi, Undnyable’s clients include invisible braces brand Byte and Select CBD, maker of vape pens.
When asked to revisit his Carl’s Jr. work, Hooper said he didn’t come up with the idea of “using hot girls to sell burgers,” which, he said, proved to be an effective tool “when used occasionally” before “the well was tapped too often.”
“When people see those ads, they are either angry or they love it, which is good because the worst thing is that they don’t notice it at all,” he added.