Harmony Korine’s Kids Menu at Burger King (1995)

In an attempt to capitalize on the success of the coming-of-age exploitation film, Burger King saw fit to create a hip menu catered for a new generation of Kids. But with vaguely named menu options like Ruby’s Red Drink (a combination of Hi-C and low-end sugarcane) and Casper’s Crazy Chicken Sandwich (a sandwich with buffalo sauce), one was left to wonder if anyone at the B.K. corporate offices had taken the time to actually watch the Lenny Clark-directed and Harmony Korine-written film.

The “Splice as Nice” promotion at Subway (2009)

The film Splice, which revolves around a pair of genetic engineers splicing human and animal DNA together to create a hybrid being and then one of them having sex with it, seemed an odd choice for a fast-food tie-in, but Subway, who has never shied away from using monsters to sell food, saw an opportunity to move product.

The promotion itself was simple, buy-one-get-one on select six-inch subs during the month of June. Once word got out about Splice’s bizarre subject matter, the promotion was buried, along with audiences' memory of the film itself.

Santiago’s Secret Sauce (A Few Good Men) available at Hardee’s (1992)

Much like the mysterious death of Marine William Santiago in A Few Good Men, this crossover promotion was both tragic and unnecessary. The Secret Sauce was, as you might expect, spicy, allowing for advertisements to invoke the “Did you order the code red?” bit of dialogue far too often. It wasn’t so much that Santiago’s Secret Sauce wasn’t popular (it was) or that the promotion didn’t succeed (sales went up 10%), it just all felt a bit tasteless with the sauce’s namesake having been murdered in a major military coverup early in the film.

Nevertheless, large cardboard cutouts of Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Nathan Jessep were plastered throughout Hardee's locations across the country, along with the co-opted tagline “You can’t handle the sauce!” It was gauche, but the secret was out, Santiago’s Sauce was a must-try.

Wild Hogs Pulled Pork Sliders at Arby's (2007)

You might not recall, but in 2007 moviegoing audiences went a little hog wild as the Travolta, Allen, Lawrence, H. Macy, tour-de-force Wild Hogs grossed nearly a quarter of a billion dollars at the box office. This filmic tie-in had America’s favorite mismatched biker gang peddling 99-cent sliders via print and a few choice television ads. The most popular of which prominently featured Woody (John Travolta) questioning Dudley’s (William H. Macy) sexuality after learning that he was vegan.

Taco Bell’s After S. Darko Deal (2009)

As part of their everlasting quest to remind you that they are, indeed, open late, Taco Bell hitched it’s wagon to a Darko film in order to promote their new evening menu. Too bad, they backed the wrong Darko, opting for S. instead of Donnie. S. Darko, the sequel to the cult classic, which focuses on Samantha (Donnie’s sister) and contains none of the actors you knew/liked from the first film, was both a critical and commercial flop.

The tie-in itself, too, lacked a creative spirit and sense of purpose with Taco Bell electing to simply put S. in front of all of the menu items as opposed to crafting menu-related puns or clever slogans. Visitors of the late-night menu were treated to options like S. Pintos and Cheese, S. Cheesy Gordita Crunch, and S. Chalupa, which, in turn, caused mass confusion among consumers and led to some very strained drive-thru interactions.

Dairy Queen’s Harvey Milkshake (2008)

This tie-in had the lactose giant, Dairy Queen, offering what was seemingly just their traditional vanilla milkshake in XXL commemorative cups with Sean Penn’s head on them. Inexplicably, the photo used of Penn was not from his Oscar-winning performance as politician and activist Harvey Milk in Milk, but instead a behind the scenes photo from the set of 1992’s Carlito’s Way. Despite the gaffe, the campaign was an overall success and the cups were used for the release of Penn’s Gangster Squad years later.


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