Why can't you sell burgers in Pakistan without sexualising women?

Why can't you sell burgers in Pakistan without sexualising women?

We speculate on the nature and origins of grossly sexist advertising in Pakistan.
17 Feb, 2016

Have you seen the latest advert by popular burger joint Hardees?

Of course you have. It's the one where a woman invitingly opens her mouth only to have it sized up by a tape measure. The caption running across the image reads 'Big Enough?'

This advert adds to a long list of other, similar promotions by Hardees and other brands that sexualise women and co-opt their bodies for commerce.

Remember the ad about Hardees' 'perfect buns,' where two buttery soft burger buns were on the verge of being squeezed by a feminine hand? Or the one where the words 'Have me now' are spliced over an image of a woman's face? Or the one that made ingenious use of the word 'swallow,' also plastered right next to a decidedly female mouth?

And then we can't forget how eatery Table No. 5 used a decidedly sexist agenda to push their products too.

Ads like this have been out of vogue in international markets for decades — their unabashed sexism made sure of that. There's hardly any reason for me to wax on about how these ads are heavily gendered and that too in favour of a heterosexual male audience, to whom sexual innuendos that hint at a woman's near-constant availability may appeal.

Why, then, do these ads continue to persist in Pakistan?

Naysayers will say these ads aren't sexist at all.

So we thought it best to preempt such comments and offer up our own speculations as to the ads' true nature and intentions.

Here are our thoughts:

1. These ads are an attempt to bolster the male ego and compensate for shortcomings, imagined or real

Case in point: this most recent Hardees ad reveals the frailty of the male ego and also, its misplaced optimism. What we mean is, look at the tape measure. The ad indicates that the size of the er, sandwich being referred to is 10 inches. Now, has anyone seen a Pakistani sandwich ten inches long? No, right?

We think it's safe to say this ad is your average Pakistani male's pipe dream (no pun intended) brought to life. And can't we all forgive a little (no pun intended) hope?

Of all our speculations, we think this is the only one that may stand on its own.

2. Women find these ads funny too

Yep, we totally giggle when we're being objectified and we find it just hilarious when we're being sexually taunted through billboards all over the city. Hahahaha.

Actually, no. The 1950s called: they want their sexist "humour" back. Why must eliciting laughter be done at the expense of women?

In a country where some men still think that red lipstick makes a woman, and I quote, "look a little too available with it, you know?", we are in no position to just laugh off such ads.

3. These brands are firm believers in the mantra that no publicity is bad publicity

It could be that like a needy significant other, the eatery just wants some attention. After all Nando's manages to do that quite successfully with their own clever puns on chicken — so why can't a brand like Hardee's engage in a little harmless teasing too, right?

Wrong! I mean, seriously, mothers are not going to bring their children for lunch to your joint after school, or ever, if the walls are plastered with this:

4. These ads are ironic, and are a commentary on how the male gaze consumes women

This is the most far-fetched of our speculations, but also the most wishful, because it would be really great if the intention behind these ads was to mock gender stereotypes and shame sexist behavior.

Unfortunately, we can't help but believe these campaigns are 100% un-ironic. If you notice, a lot of these ads showcase parts of a women's body, like they've been dismembered and the only the ones that serve the men a purpose have been retained. It perpetuates the concept that a woman's body is not connected to her mind and emotions i.e she's not a real person. The subliminal message? If a woman has a big enough mouth, who cares who she is?

All this brings to mind a similar marketing campaign by Table No. 5. The eatery was in hot water after pushback on social media for its not-so-subtly-sexist ads, and they devised a plan to get back on track.

Whether they've followed through or not is a different story but maybe Hardees should look into doing the same because it's only a matter of time before the women stop being really annoyed by their ads and start getting really, really angry.


Angry Feb 17, 2016 05:51pm
Wow this is horribly sexist. Never eating at hardees again
Parvez Feb 17, 2016 05:54pm
I have been roundly accused of being a liberal........and I find these ads suggestive and thus , offensive.
Tanweer Khan Feb 17, 2016 06:06pm
I think these ads are just a sign of the times and evolution. Many years ago, such ads were accepted in the West too, but then the feminist movement, human rights, equal opportunities and discrimination discussions started taking place and gradually such ads disappeared. So essentially, Western society's thought process changed due to economic and intellectual prosperity. When Pakistan reaches that same level of 'well being', then for sure people will tackle such subjects. But in a country where all sorts of heinous crimes are committed everyday, where the aggrieved don't get justice and the perpetrators roam freely would suggest that offensive and sexist ads are probably not on top of the public's agenda of 'wrongs that need to be fixed'.
Sexy Feb 17, 2016 06:07pm
Don't like it don't buy it,
Haider Feb 17, 2016 06:19pm
Please don't generalize. A lot of men find these ads crass and disgusting.
chango Feb 17, 2016 06:21pm
honestly! until it was pointed out how sexist these Ads are how many of us really paid any attention to them? It wouldn't have entered most people's minds. Chill.
immo Feb 17, 2016 06:26pm
there is an american burger joint named Carl's Jr they are also known to have extremley sexist ads and they have also been under fire some of the slogans that hardees is using, exact same phrases are used by Carl's Jr burger joint like "Hold me here Bite me right there" and "Eat like you mean it" " Lick slurp swallow" these are their slogans either hardees is Carl Jr's franchise under new name or they are just wanna be Carl Jr's i will be forwarding this link to Carl's representative they may sue hardees for using their branding slogans without their knowledge. let two sexist businesses fight each other :)
Sal Feb 17, 2016 06:40pm
Point is that when it comes to money and greed, nothing is off the table, that's one of the core (im)moral value of market economy.
Hamaad Feb 17, 2016 06:42pm
Boycott Hardees and any other business that uses such sexually explicit advertising gimmicks.
PakistanFirst Feb 17, 2016 06:53pm
Hardees crossed a big, big line here - this is not even acceptable in WEST.
Kamran Feb 17, 2016 07:01pm
hamza sultan Feb 17, 2016 07:07pm
@Tanweer Khan Are you kidding? Have you even seen billboards and ads in the US? Americans have probably THE most racist and sexist advertising industry. As long as you can pay for it, you can most likely get away with it. Sexism has always been watered down with humour, makes it more palatable. It's not good to look down upon your own country or culture without doing proper research into where the rest of the world really stands.
Mueen Feb 17, 2016 07:11pm
These ads are sexist, vulgar and unacceptable. They need to be opposed and gotten rid off. There can be no tolerance in our society for advertising in such bad taste, and causing so much offense. This is not the first time Hardees has erred on this front. Get rid of these ads Hardees, and be careful in the future!!
Mangoman Feb 17, 2016 07:13pm
@chango I agree.
Beg to differ Feb 17, 2016 07:24pm
You wouldn't get away with these ads in the UK. Pakistan advertising watchdog appear to be pretty relaxed in the light of such tasteless ads.
umer Feb 17, 2016 07:28pm
Sorry and sad way of objectifying women, in the name of freedom for women and women rights!
N_Saq Feb 17, 2016 07:29pm
Unfortunately sex sells. It is the same all over the world and it is one's freedom to chose. Freedom is always good not bad and should not be curtailed under any circumstances otherwise you will end of as a slave. However, sometimes we need guidelines as how to use our freedoms and that is where the parliament come in. In the West, it is the law that protects the woman from the perverted mind, therefore, strengthen laws and depoliticize the police so that it protects law and order instead of rich and powerful.
Acer Feb 17, 2016 07:37pm
@immo hardees and carl jr are the same company.
Am Feb 17, 2016 07:44pm
Similarly mobilink's launching a phone by using picture of woman dressed in red was totally wrong
womenarepeople Feb 17, 2016 07:59pm
@Tanweer Khan pathetic
El Cid Feb 17, 2016 08:19pm
Why can't the women just say no?
Raj Patel Feb 17, 2016 08:24pm
People in comments don't like ad how many of them visited the shop to eat burgers ??? Don't buy and they have to close down the shop or change add.
Mahmood Feb 17, 2016 08:29pm
I'm shocked these ads are allowed in Pakistan, Even the U.S. does not allow such suggestive and obviously obscene ads.
Skeptic Feb 17, 2016 08:32pm
More importantly, why did any woman, Pakistani or otherwise, participated or modeled for these ads?
MZ Feb 17, 2016 08:33pm
@immo Carl's Jr was a competing fast food chain in the US that acquired Hardee's in the late '90s and Hardee's Pak seems to be using the same marketing strategy. As far as the sexist adverts are concerned, that problem is not isolated to Pakistan ( ). Perceptions and attitudes evolve slowly. Pakistani society will be in a better position to discuss and reform such issues once we see more women getting educated, competing in the work force, establishing businesses, etc. Unfortunately, a lot needs to be reformed before we reach that point.
Anwar Sadiqque Feb 17, 2016 08:33pm
A company would hurt its image in the US if these types of advertisements were run.
yo Feb 17, 2016 08:35pm
@immo They're owned by the same company.
MB Feb 17, 2016 08:54pm
This is truly appalling
khan Feb 17, 2016 09:05pm
Hardees is notoriously famous for inappropriate and sexy adds here in US and elsewhere .
adnan Feb 17, 2016 09:05pm
it doen't matter now, it is already too late. these are all illuminati charged brands and businesses they will destroy what is left of the values of people of this land. end of story. there is no local competition in any product in pakistan food or otherwise! fight was over
Jabbar Pasha (Canada) Feb 17, 2016 09:27pm
Hardees is a great place to eat. I am a very big fan of their Burgers.
Sadaf Salman Feb 17, 2016 09:39pm
Hardees making shame on Woman, instead they should focus on their product. They should employee more women in their marketing staff as well. If you are selling things in Pakistan respect our values and culture as well.
Skeptic Feb 17, 2016 10:17pm
I'm sure the Hardees franchises in Pakistan are owned by Pakistanis. These ads are a sad commentary on their greed for profit and unabashed exploitation, while offending the sensibilities of the very people they are hoping to attract to their restaurants. Boycott Hardees, and they will soon be out of business!
solani Feb 17, 2016 10:18pm
This is a tactics to sale burgers in the name of women. Right now we are not that strong to wipe these ads off the bill boards. Just ignore it and boycott its products.
Zeeshan Ahmed Feb 17, 2016 10:18pm
Spot on - for all the equality that the anti-religion liberal establishment preaches, women are plastered on every advertisement from chewing gum to cars. The fact it is allowed to happen in Pakistan speaks volumes about the society. You will not find such blatant advertisements in Saudi Arabia.
Saeed Masood Feb 17, 2016 10:24pm
Only women can stop this insult from happening to them, simply stop modeling in these cheap and nonsense adds...
A. Khan Feb 17, 2016 10:29pm
Isn't there an advertising standards agency that reviews the print and video ads before they are published ? I am really shocked that such ads with blatant sexual innuendo are allowed in Pakistan.
Mudassir Feb 17, 2016 10:30pm
Very brave article. Bravo! Girls! you will have to speak up ! When we males taunt some fellow male we call him girlish or feminine at certain specific occasions. And often we forget that we have sisters and mothers too. This is really a double standard.
Why single out Pakistan? Feb 17, 2016 10:31pm
Its done all around the world, why single out Pakistan?
malik Feb 17, 2016 11:04pm
Hardees and Carls Jnr,,,,both are same things.
Mish Feb 17, 2016 11:20pm
@immo LOL Carl's Jr and Hardee's are owned by the same parent company. and both the brands have the same brand personality and language. Save yourself the embarrassment :P
Aditi Kaushik Feb 18, 2016 12:00am
I have never seen Hardee's in India. Not sure if they made it here. Apart from McDs and KFCs, India's local brands are doing good here.
shabut Feb 18, 2016 12:24am
These are just outright cheap ads.
Tariq, Lahore Feb 18, 2016 12:45am
Using 'cheap' gimmicks to sell 'junk' food, sorry do not indulge!
zubair Feb 18, 2016 12:47am
nothings gonna happen... Remember Roaster it was closed for being unhygienic .... its jam packed on weekends.
Kamila Nuha Feb 18, 2016 01:09am
Never eating at Hardee's, ever.
Zafar Feb 18, 2016 01:49am
I live in US and Hardees ads here also uses overly sexualized women, so think it is a brand specific issue and not a Pakistan specific issue
gangadin Feb 18, 2016 02:05am
Cheap,vulgar,and in a very bad taste-to say the least.
khan Feb 18, 2016 03:04am
@Anwar Sadiqque I am sorry since Hardees advertise more vulgar and sexy adds in US,
Ahmer Feb 18, 2016 03:11am
Well this is the case all over the world with every product. Why single out burgers and Pakistan only?
Mustafa Feb 18, 2016 04:42am
I believe the work 'Pakistan' in the title is misleading in a sense that as if women are used for sill advertisement purposes only in Pakistan. Even BMW has an add with a lady in a bikini. This is sad but the problem is universal and not it isn't just Pakistan specific.
zia Feb 18, 2016 07:40am
Never been Hardees in Pakistan and never heard of these ads but from the first glance they look like ones that MUST not be socially acceptable. Hardees as well as people who made these ads and those who ran these ads, all should be questioned. For God sake, grow up ! Differentiate between objects and humans.
Ali Feb 18, 2016 08:49am
@immo, Dude, Hardees and Carl's Jr are the same thing. It's called Carl's Jr here in California, but Hardees in some other states in the US.
zargham Feb 18, 2016 10:14am
This is hilarious. Thats a shame to promote your burgers by targeting women. Goodbye forever Harsdees . By doing this you reduce a male customer.
Ahmar Qureshi Feb 18, 2016 10:20am
I consider it an utter misogyny! The Advertisement is meant to generate "market good will" followed by "favorable sales turnover" whereas such tactics will even cause the current customers to detach themselves from the brand. Some may have even found it attractive as per their level of understanding but general tendency of consumers will consider it a taboo to be a brand loyal. Thank you
AZB Feb 18, 2016 10:47am
Interestingly image google objectification of women and most of the results would be the interantional ads by Carls Jr (Hardees). Compared to those the Pakistani Hardees marketing seems mildly sexist
Giri Feb 18, 2016 10:48am
I think these ads are actually a reflection of society. I pity women in such society where males consider women exist for only one purpose. One wonders how many will imagine their sisters and daughters in such suggestive ads. It is always meant for unrelated females right?
Talha Feb 18, 2016 11:04am
has anybody seen "slice" add featuring katrina kaif? This was also showing inappropriate gestures.
Jehangir Feb 18, 2016 11:28am
I just cant stop laughing at point # are sooo good. This is funny beyond belief...kudos
Sikander Feb 18, 2016 12:27pm
Your writing has brought this to people's mind otherwise we don't care.
Rizwan Feb 18, 2016 12:46pm
Simple solution, Say No to Hardees, Stop eating it, so they and other could avoid playing with emotions.
Naveed Feb 18, 2016 01:15pm
Well I am going to eat at Hardees as i have no problem with it. We as a society must learn not to be offended by every little thing
Asif Feb 18, 2016 01:27pm
I wonder where are we going? For the sake of modernity we can easily leave behind West for sure.
Syed Feb 18, 2016 01:29pm
I am disgusted (and yes, I am a male); this is disgraceful by any culture's yardstick. Yes, the least one can do is to avoid this franchise in future.
Aqib Feb 18, 2016 05:18pm
@immo googled it, annnnnd they are both owned by CKE Restaurants.. even the logos are ditto copies of each other.. good luck anyways guy :)
Asad Malik Feb 18, 2016 06:24pm
@hamza sultan Given your comments regarding the ad industry in the US, I can only assume you've seen Mad Men and have never actually been to the US. I've lived there for a significant amount of time and any racist ad would be brought down by lawsuits before it even aired. So no, most of the Hardees ads would be shot down before they even reached the drawing board.
Anon Feb 18, 2016 07:59pm
@immo Carl Jr. and Hardee's are same. One company, 2 brand. Carl jr. doesn't operate in Pakistan.
Ishaq Feb 20, 2016 11:49am
If hardees is doing such disgusting things, why don't we boycott it. I think we should eat desi dishes.
Ishaq Feb 20, 2016 11:50am
@zargham well done bro. that's a great.
Saqib Feb 20, 2016 06:13pm
Whatever goes on in USA need not be acceptable in Pakistan right away without reason. How can someone be comfortable driving around with their sisters/mothers while such hoardings are up on display. So Yes they must be taken down immediately. Having said that however; women must also not take it personally as it is not a sexist male egoistic drive rather only measures (gross though they may be) intended to enhance interest of consumers