By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Call it the battle of the virtual burger babes.
In one corner, there’s Kim Kardashian, the sexy cable star, eager to chat via webcam with Carl’s Jr. customers on “The Ultimate Salad Lunch Date” at www.facebook.com/carlsjr.
In the other corner, there’s Burger King’s “Shower Babe,” an anonymous 20-year-old from South London. Folks can watch and hear her online while she showers in a bikini and sings. Viewers are asked to vote for what song she’ll sing and what bikini she’ll wear the next day.
One “seriously lucky” person in the U.K. who visits the website, www.singingintheshower.co.uk, will win a breakfast date with Shower Babe.
This may be the virtual future of fast-food advertising. Never mind that BK is pitching breakfast items and Carl’s is pitching salads with these promos. Chains such as BK and Carl’s, which squarely target teens and twentysomethings, find that the triple combo of hot babes, fast food and webcams work well to draw hard-to-reach teen guy prime customers to their sites and, ultimately, into stores.
But critics abound.
“It’s as if we’re back in the 1950s the way pop culture portrays women, but with New Age technology,” says Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women.
Martin Lindstrom, a marketing consultant, questions whether sex in ads really sells. While viewers are quick to recall sexual imagery, they mostly forget what brand is behind the ad, he says. “What does sex really have to do with burgers?”
That’s not the point, says Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl’s Jr. “You can say 1,000 times that you have a great burger and no one will listen to you, but if you put a beautiful woman in the ad, they will.”
Consumers who buy new Carl’s salads between Dec. 30 and Jan. 12 will be given a special code granting access to ask Kardashian questions during the Jan. 13 virtual lunch date. No code is required, however, to watch the event via streaming video.
The BK site advises fans to “watch our shower babe shake her bits to the hits at 9:30 a.m. every morning.”
The campaign, which began Dec. 8, ends on Thursday. The site has had 70,000 unique visitors. “While we know (it) won’t appeal to every consumer,” BK spokeswoman Michelle Miguelez says, “we do know that it does resonate with our key male superfans in the U.K.”