Who among us has not harbored the occasional romantic and/or sexual yearning for a teacher? Teachers have power. Power is sexy. More to the point, some teachers are attractive -- hot, even. They didn't include that red-pepper rating on RateMyProfessors.com for nothing.Hardee's and Carl's Jr. TV ad for the Patty Melt Thickburger could be mistaken for a tribute to the noble profession of teaching. In the ad, a group of teenage boys, inspired by the sight of their hot blond teacher's backside, begin rapping a parody of Sir Mix-A-Lot's immortal "Baby Got Back":
"In anatomy class, you got a butt-minus...I like flat buns, flaaat buns!"
Overcome, the teacher begins to dance and writhe atop her desk, whereupon men age 18 to 34, the ad's target audience, presumably say to themselves, "Gee, I could really go for a patty melt right now."
"I can't see how anyone could look at it not see a parody of a 'Hot for Teacher' video from the Eighties," says Hardee's Jeff Mochal, PR manager for the St. Louis-based company.
Maybe members of the Tennessee Education Association aren't fans of Van Halen, either. Soon after a few of them caught the ad during a break in an airing of a Tennessee Titans game, they began to protest and demand that the ad be taken off the air.
"The ad makes the classroom look like a joke," says Cheryl Umberger, a communications consultant at the TEA. "The teacher is not taken seriously, nor are the students. Teachers do not get up on their desks the way the supposed teacher does in the ad. The way she's portrayed makes it difficult, especially for young teachers, to establish the appropriate discipline and class behavior with high school students."
Mochal says the ad was never meant to cause any trouble. "I Like Flat Buns," sans teacher, first aired as a radio spot four months ago and proved so popular -- Mochal actually fielded requests for a ringtone -- that the company decided to create the TV version, which hit the airwaves August 28. Really, what better way is there to harness the back-to-school spirit and illustrate flat buns at the same time? The ads were scheduled to air only after 10 p.m., by which time most earnest young scholars should be finishing up their homework and heading off to bed.
Nonetheless, the controversy sizzled. More groups, most notably the American Family Association, began posting the YouTube clip on their Web sites and urging their members to write to their local TV stations and CKE Restaurants, Hardee's and Carl's Jr.'s California-based parent company, in protest. The media picked up the story, and last week impressionable schoolchildren could watch it on Good Morning America.
"The media showed it ten times more than we did," says Mochal. "It must have increased the ad value 100 times."
It is hard to say at this point, however, how much it boosted patty-melt sales.
CKE was puzzled by the violence of the reaction, Mochal says, but as the ad was not meant to shock or offend (unlike the one with Paris Hilton), the company retooled the commercial and cut out the teacher.
Alas, St. Louis television viewers will be spared those poorly rapping white kids. The ad went off the air last weekend. Hardee's has already moved on to its next promotion, the Hawaiian Chicken Sandwich. Sensitive Hawaiians take note: the new commercials debut October 1.