Ben Coulson reveals how Hungry Jack's left 'wanker land'

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 28 September 2017

As fast food giants spend millions of dollars on ads for new healthier products that appeal to increasingly health-focused Australians, Hungry Jack’s is having none of it.

Instead choosing to buck the trend, unashamed, it has wholeheartedly focused on being a "real" hamburger joint, explains Clemenger Sydney.

The brand has worked with the creative agency for seven years.

Its latest ad, forming part of the new "Keeping it Real" campaign for Hungry Jack's, features a man about to chow down on a kale smoothie before having a sudden revelation and escaping hipster hell to eat a real burger.

It pokes fun at the hipster culture and is a distinct move away from previous advertising from the brand.

"We aren’t going to follow our competitors down the route of trying to be all things to all people," Coulson says.

"For a long time we’ve seen McDonald’s loosely try to expand its offering and now you can be eating a friand in a McCafe and it doesn’t feel like a hamburger restaurant anymore,” he says.

“Things had become blurry with every quick service restaurant launching salads and new menus. We wanted to bring it back to the humble hamburger shop.”

On launch, it appeared on Channel Seven breakfast television program Sunrise, was picked up globally on American trade press sites AdWeek and AdAge, and even received praise in the comments of Campaign Brief – a rare feat for Australian work. While Hungry Jack’s wouldn’t reveal exact numbers, it says it’s already driven a lift in sales.

As Coulson explains, the campaign marks the next evolution for Hungry Jack’s.

“People had become very familiar with Hungry Jack’s advertising, which was largely food assembly shots done on black backgrounds talking about the delicious ingredients. We’d done that for a very long time, but decided to change the direction of the brand in one foul swoop,” he says, adding the brand set an agenda to communicate what it stood for.

“’Keeping it Real’ is a big strategic piece that took us about three months to come up with. It recognises we’d gone a bit too far into wanker land and brings it back to normal land where people aren’t embarrassed to indulge in a big, juicy burger.”

Coulson has been at Clemenger Sydney for nearly nine months, joining from Y&R. While he is the only new ingredient to the Hungry Jack’s/Clemenger relationship, which goes back seven years, he doesn’t take full credit for the new creative direction.

Ben CoulsonBen Coulson

Rather, the brand realised it needs to shake things up after a huge investment in adopting cage-free eggs and hormone-free beef went largely under the radar.

“They got the food story right but people weren’t hearing it. We spent a solid three months of strategic planning, which sometimes resulted in tears, before breaking through to the creative,” Coulson says.

The new ad isn't a one-off, it's a long-term brand platform Hungry Jack’s will continue to roll out.

Hungry Jack’s CMO Scott Baird says the feedback has been extremely positive since the launch.

“When we undertook the brand repositioning we wanted to ensure we had a bold idea that embraces and amplifies those moments in life when only a burger will do, and not just any burger, an HJ’s burger.

"However, Keeping It Real is more than just a campaign line, it’s an ideology for the brand that we as an organisation are embracing long term, and want Australia to embrace along with us,” he says.

There are five more TV spots on the way, but the brand is also exploring billboards that will issue personalised messages to passer-buyers as well as integration with the Hungry Jack’s app that will offer coupons.

“In this category you can’t just do a big, expensive brand ad that one day may contribute to a lift in sales. You can’t do a Sony Balls ad or a metaphoric piece of work. You need that ad to air and that day see a difference in sales,” Coulson says.

“There’s still work to be done, but we’ve seen a spirited bounce and it’s the beginning of a long story.”

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