Carl's Jr. and Hardees Bring Adult Swim Toys to Combo Meals

Originally Posted On
Ad Age

The collaboration may be the first time adults get figurines with their fast food

Why should kids have all the fun?

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are giving fans of Adult Swim cartoons specialty toys in combo meals. Figurines of Space Ghost, Meatwad and other characters will come in blind packs, adding a treasure hunt element to the promotion, since diners won’t know which character they received until they open the packaging. The restaurants’ mascot, Happy, is also featured on its own figurine.

The move gives Carl’s Jr., Hardees and Adult Swim a unique way to connect with fans.

“It really is about how can we get our customer excited? The younger audience out there, they’re looking for more culturally relevant partnerships,” says Patty Trevino, senior VP of marketing at CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardees.

While kids’ meals across the industry often come with toys included in the cost, taking combo meals “for an Adult Swim” will add $1 to the price of a large combo meal. For collectors who covet toys from shows such as “Robot Chicken” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” $1 might be seen as a steal.

The Adult Swim figurines include Space Ghost from “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” Robot Chicken from the show of the same name, Meatwad and Frylock from “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” Nathan Explosion from “Metalocalypse,” Debbie from “Sealab 2021” and Harvey Birdman, from “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.”

The meals, available September 22 to November 7, also come with a drink in an Adult Swim-themed cup.

Carl’s Jr. and Hardees worked with Adult Swim a few years ago on an “Aqua Team” partnership tied to the rollout of premium fresh-baked buns, Trevino recalls, but there weren’t toys involved. Trevino, who keeps an eye on the overall industry and worked at Burger King earlier in her career, says she can’t recall ever seeing a meal targeted at adults that included a figurine or toy.

The partnership comes as Adult Swim celebrates its 20th anniversary.

“We like doing things that are sort of first to market,” says Tricia Melton, chief marketing officer, Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics, who says doing a special meal for adults has been on her personal “marketing bucket list.” Her favorite figurine in the set is Meatwad. “Collectibles are very much part of our culture and particularly of the young adult fan base around Adult Swim.”

Adult Swim will air so-called Happy-Thons (a play on the name of the mascot at Carl’s Jr. and Hardees) on Fridays in October, showing episodes from early Adult Swim shows. There will also be on-air and social media ads from Adult Swim.

CKE's marketing plans include 15-second national TV commercials starting next week. CKE is concurrently promoting new hot honey available on chicken sandwiches, which is shown dripping onto the Adult Swim figurines in the ad.

Adult Swim’s in-house creative team, RPA, 72andSunny, The Brand Amp, LaForce, The CDM Company and Haygarth collaborated on the project.

News of the collaboration comes a day after McDonald’s announced plans to reduce its use of plastic in toys for its Happy Meals. While Happy Meal toys are included with the purchase of a meal at McDonald’s, diners at Carl’s Jr. and Hardees will have to opt in to get the figurines.