Carl’s Jr. announced last month that leather bikinis and nearly naked women will no longer be a part of their burger advertising strategy. Good, right? The reason for the sudden change, however, points to a much larger societal issue.
Commercials for Carl’s Jr. and its sister company, Hardees, have long been associated with sexy, nearly naked models hungrily devouring juicy burgers. But in a recent strategic turn, advertising consultants for the parent company of both chains said “it was time to evolve” away from its edgy branding in order put the focus back on its food. But digging a little deeper, we learn perhaps the real reason for the change in tune, something that dampens my enthusiasm for the company’s purported wholesome change.
“Young hungry guys aren’t as affected by the racy ads with the swimsuit models because you can get a lot of that on the Internet now,” Andrew Puzder, who until recently led the chains’ parent company, told Fox Business.
In other words, because sex can so easily be found online, the young, male demographic targeted by the racy ads is so desensitized to sex that the sex in Carl’s Jr. commercials just wasn’t having the same effect anymore.
Research shows that pornography exposure is widespread among America’s youth, whether they actively search for it or whether they happen to accidentally stumble upon it online. Many are concerned about youths’ exposure to pornography because of its effect on attitudes and behaviors related to the degradation and devaluation of women. Pornography is so prevalent in western society that some experts call it a “prevalent and near-mainstream part of life for adolescents and emerging adults in many parts of the world” (see the previous study link). So serious is the issue that as of March 30 (just last week), three states have passed resolutions calling pornography a “public health crisis” of “epidemic” proportions.
As reported by CNN, Dawn Hawkins, the senior vice president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, said, “Thanks in part to the Internet, it is now beyond an individual’s or a family’s capacity to adequately protect against, or overcome the harmful influences of, pornography.”
Yikes. Sounds depressing. I tend to agree with everything in that last quote, except the word “overcome.” Because I think—and my own research shows—that while parents can’t protect children from seeing pornography, they can empower their children to deal with it appropriately through consistent parent-child conversations about pornography beginning when kids are young.
In our family, we’ve had conversations about pornography with our first grader. We haven’t even had the Santa talk with her yet. We tell our kids that we don’t like pornography. We tell them that it doesn’t show reality. We tell them that real people don’t look or act like they do in pornography. We tell them about the negative effects it can have on them. Pornography is so prevalent that I believe we need to start early on to give our kids the tools to deal with it.
So, Carl’s Jr., kudos for nixing the sexy burger ads. But America, shame on you for making it so they had to (oh, the irony). And parents, may we all do whatever is necessary to empower our kids to make good media choices in an increasingly pornographic society.