The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, a televangelist who has a show that airs nationwide in the US, is objecting to Carl's Jr.'s TV spots, featuring Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.
The ads are for a line of five sandwiches called "The Six Dollar Burger," sold by Carl's Jr. restaurants in 14 Western states. They feature Hefner, 77, in his signature silk pajamas holding a bulging sandwich.
"People always ask me, 'Hey Hef, do you have favorites?' " he says in one version. "I love them all. It just depends on what I'm in the mood for.' " The tag line of the campaign is: "Because some guys don't like the same thing night after night."
In his weekly sermon, taped for broadcast this Sunday, Schuller denounces the ads as harmful to children and demeaning to women.
Carl's Jr. spokeswoman Caroline Leakan said the ads have sparked hundreds of complaints since they began airing in early November. "We're sorry people took offense, but we're standing by our advertising," Leakan said Thursday. "There's nothing sexual about them."
And there's even more to this story. Leaders of Thomas Aquinas College were so upset these commercials featuring the quintessential playboy, that they met with the chief executive of CKE Restaurants Inc., which operates Carl's Jr., and asked him to resign from the college's board of governors. Andrew Puzder agreed to step down. Puzder, who declined to comment, explained this month why CKE had hired the founder of Playboy magazine as a spokesman.
"We're appealing to an audience of young, hungry guys who expect a quality product but want to have something different from time to time," he said.
"Hefner appeals to our target audience and credibly appeals to our message of variety."