Carl's Jr. & Hardee's

Creating the [adult swim] Meal

A media case study.

Challenge: So much competition. So much on people’s minds.

CKE is the parent company of both Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, each of which has a unique geography and customer base, but use national media to speak about both brands at the same time.

The fast-food burger space is crowded with options in the best of times. But our audience’s minds were overwhelmed even more than usual with concerns about the pandemic, economy, social justice, politics, and continued change and uncertainty.

The creative campaign was built around the line, “Feed Your Happy” —  but things didn’t exactly feel happy.

Insight: People craved comfort and escapism.

Strategically, we were focused on frequent QSR visitors — the core customers that drive a disproportionate amount of visits and revenue.

We sought a smarter partnership to help CKE stand out, not just in scale, but also in a way that leans into our customers’ interests, maximizing our impact. [adult swim] felt like a perfect partner: beloved by our customers for its irreverent place within pop culture and comprised of young and hungry customers. Its role in fans’ lives is to provide a fun, indulgent escape — a perfect fit with the role CKE’s food plays for them, too. Together we aimed to creatively promote in-store sales, while also increasing brand recognition and affinity.

Solution: “Happy-thons” and an adult-meal deal.

We used CKE’s brand character, Happy Star, to promote “Happy-thons” of episode blocks of Adult Swim programming, including “Sealab,” “Space Ghost,” “Metalocalypse,” “Robot Chicken,” “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law,” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” paired with co-branded custom spots, tune-in messaging, billboards, and animated vignettes. The goal was to lift CKE’s brand equity by tapping into and associating with the [adult swim] audience and IP.

Then we went a step further, to truly link our brands in a fun, tangible way. RPA proposed creating an “[adult swim] meal” that would come with collectible [adult swim] character figurines, plus CKE’s own Happy Star. This synergy tapped into our customers’ nostalgia for the fun kids’ meals of their youth, while making it relevant for them today. Since the campaign took place during the height of the pandemic, the comforting, nostalgic connection felt even more compelling.

Additionally, a wave of social content to tease, support, and sustain awareness for both the [adult swim] meal and the new product launch was rolled out, with Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram posts across [adult swim] and CKE channels.

Results: We definitely fed some happy.

The partnership was a big success and exceeded expectations. Among the core audience exposed to this promotion:

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