Hardee's unapologetic in push for new Thickburger

ST. LOUIS: At a time when most fast-food restaurants are frantically touting "healthy" new menu items, Midwest chain Hardee's captured international attention last week when it unveiled a new burger that was anything but.

ST. LOUIS: At a time when most fast-food restaurants are frantically touting "healthy" new menu items, Midwest chain Hardee's captured international attention last week when it unveiled a new burger that was anything but.

Hardee's issued a press release trumpeting the Monster Thickburger, which weighs in at two-thirds of a pound, via PR Newswire last Monday. The release hailed it as a "monument to decadence."

The AP included the announcement in a story about restaurants offering healthier menu items, and soon other media coverage followed, said Caroline Weilert, a Weber Shandwick VP in LA who oversees the firm's work with CKE Restaurants, Hardee's parent company.

The Hardee's portion of the account is handled by WS' office in St. Louis, where Hardee's is based.

Rather than worry about negative reaction to the product from antimeat and health and nutrition groups, Hardee's decided "the only way to talk about it was in an unapologetic way," said Brad Haley, EVP of marketing at Hardee's. "It's so over-the-top, you've just got to have fun with it."

Weilert said the firm also deflected criticism by stressing the variety of options Hardee's offers on its menu. The chain was the first to offer a low-carb burger, for example, and is planning a new health-oriented product to follow the introduction of the Monster Thickburger, she said.

Neither WS nor Hardee's had totaled up media impressions garnered by the release in the 24 hours after it came out. A Google search found 147 stories mentioning it by Tuesday, some from as far away as New Zealand.

Advertising for the Monster Thickburger will begin in about two weeks, Haley said. Additional PR will come from events that feature NFL players working at Hardee's drive-up windows in 10 markets over the next several weeks, said Weilert. Hardee's will donate proceeds from sales of the Thickburgers by the NFL players to charities of the players' choosing.

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