Sunday, May 16, 2010


Or, How Kim Kardashian Convinced Me to Eat Salad

May the gods bless the Internet! A friend of mine in L.A. turned me on to this Carl’s Jr. commercial featuring the leggy supermodel Padma who hosts Top Chef (no, not the Asian one, the Indian one). Since we don’t seem to have any Carl’s Jr.s here in Chicago (a crying shame, for sure), I went online to Ye Olde YouTube to check this out.

Oh, oh my! Watching Padma enjoy that Western Bacon Six Dollar Burger was quite a thing to behold. Something about leggy supermodels and messy fast food just makes me want to ditch my diet and hop a plane out west to the nearest Carl’s Jr. franchise. But scrolling down the search page I came across yet another leggy supermodel hocking their menu: Kim Kardashian.

Forty-eight stunned seconds later, I was a convert. Like a religious experience, the mere thought of ingesting that burger seemed distasteful, nay, disgusting. No, salads are where it’s at. Definitely. Like a Carl’s Jr. Cranberry Apple Walnut Chicken Salad. Now where’s my wallet?

They say that sex sells, and the guys over at the Mendelsohn|Zien, the ad agency behind the spot, completely get that. They did not only Kim’s and Padma’s commercials, but a Paris Hilton one as well (I won’t bother). These ads have obviously created quite a stir in the media. Tim Winter, the president of the Parents Television Council, says it’s like “using soft-core porn to market their hamburgers.” I say let ‘em, Tim!

The most obvious element of all of these spots is the juxtaposition of delicious ingredients with delicious bodies. A lot of care and attention is paid to each and every camera angle. The lighting is perfect in every shot, and they will shoot take after take to achieve the perfect mise-en-scène, or movement of elements within the scene. As Kim takes a bite of apple, for example, the vinaigrette (no doubt thickened a little bit with corn starch) drapes ever-so-sensuously over her lower lip. This one shot was done over and over again to get it just right, as shown in the behind-the-scenes clip that accompanies the director’s cut version of the ad (yes, a TV-MA, online-only, director’s cut version of a food ad… what IS our world coming to? Sigh…!).

Another common element to these ads is the models’ patter, um, I mean, enlightening stories. These little voice-over vignettes are supposed to make us see them as real women who enjoy fast food just as much as the rest of us slobs. But when they enjoy it, boy do they ENJOY it! Their descriptions, taken word-for-word, are not all that suggestive in and of themselves. This actually lends an air of innocence to what we’re seeing on the screen. The idea that the sensual enjoyment of all those calories is really just a carefree act of junk food-ingesting frivolity gives one a sense of glee when passing through the drive thru on the way home to load up on carbs, calories and cholesterol.

The music behind the patter is simple, beat-heavy but not fast, like hip-hop, R&B, or the like. It of course isn’t too distracting, consisting mainly of an uncomplicated melody with simple harmony. The main musical phrase is essentially looped over and over, creating a simple rhythm within the thirty or so seconds that sticks with the viewer when finished. When combined with the voiceover and, of course, the visuals, the music adds to the spot’s sensual impact, bringing back to mind the image of chipotle Caesar dressing dripping down Kim’s ample cleavage each and every time one later hears that song on the radio (and that knowing look on her face when it happens! Ohhhhhh!).

“Who says salads can’t be hot” is the tagline for these ads, of which Kim’s done three. Kim goes on to say in the video promo, “Salads are sexy. When you’re eating something that tastes good and you know is good for you, that’s sexy. That’s hot.” Right, Kim. That Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad with blue cheese dressing clocks in at 760 calories (according to the Carl’s Jr. website’s nutrition calculator). Oh, and Padma? You just scarfed down 1020 calories with that burger, including 480 from fat and a nice, heart-stopping 2,520 mg of sodium. Ya want fries with that?

I’m ever grateful to my friend for turning me on to these ads. I do miss living out west, and while I didn’t frequent Carl’s Jr. as much as I should have (more of a Jack in the Box fan, myself), I’ll wholeheartedly admit these ads DID make me want a burger… I mean, a salad. Let’s face it, hot women enjoying food ratchets up the hormones. The chemical receptors are stimulated, and while you’re salivating like some scientist’s dog, they show you images of food. THEIR food. A SIX-DOLLAR burger, mind you. Oh, wait, you don’t mind anymore, because all that salivating is now associated with their food. The very same food you’re about to spend your six dollars on. Yes, I’ll admit it…. SUCKER.

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