Dick Sittig, the marketing genius behind the Jack-in-the-Box ad campaigns, has created a commercial concept so powerful that he now has rival Carl’s Jr. helping him spread the word. How? By being so funny and acerbic that Carl’s is trying to sue for relief.

I have long wanted to write about the off-the-wall humor in the advertising for Jack in the Box (JITB) restaurants, a West Coast-based fast-food firm. While they are a good-sized company ($2.7-billion in sales), JITB is not a national chain (their locations are in only 17 states).

Under the direction of Dick Sittig, the Jack advertising has consistently stood out from the clutter, succinctly demonstrated their product advantages, and almost always made viewers smile.

Scott G in the studioThe humor ranges from mainstream to delightfully warped, as might be expected from creatives at an ad agency called the Kowloon Wholesale Fish Company (although to save their receptionist from too many calls from food distributors they are dba Secret Weapon Marketing).

With their most recent marketing onslaught for JITB, the belly laughs are too loud to ignore. Plus, they have done what every marketer must dream about: suckered their competitors into a publicity war from a foolish lawsuit.

The Commercial
In the opening spot of what I expect will be a series of humorous ads, we see spokesperson Jack, a human with the JITB logo for a head, in a boardroom explaining their new sirloin burgers to JITB employees. He uses a chart to illustrate the various parts of a cow, and points out the location of the meat-eaters’ desirable choice, sirloin.

One employee notes that their competition is selling Angus burgers and asks Jack if he would show where find “the Angus area of the cow.”


At this point, we watch a puzzled Jack standing by part of the chart, the part displaying what my dad used to call the north end of a south-bound cow.

“I’d rather not,” says Jack, and the spot concludes with their regular branding imagery.

The Reaction
Like lemmings, the people at CKE Restaurants (formerly Carl Karcher Enterprises) have gone to court with paperwork that reportedly claims the JITB commercials create “The erroneous notion that all cuts of Angus beef are derived from the anus of beef cattle.”

So, basically, CKE is saying its customers are too stupid to get the joke.

I suppose this is possible, given the nature of the CKE ads for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants. For years, sloppy eaters have been a mainstay of their ads. One commercial for milk shakes has two male yokels placing their hands on the Angus end of cows and attempting to vibrate them. Get it? Milk . . . shakes.

Another ad has cab drivers talking with their mouths full and insulting women who pass by.

The Comedy Keeps on Coming
Alana Semuels of the Los Angeles Times noted what Dick Sittig told industry magazine Adweek about the JITB “where’s the Angus” campaign. He said that the humor in the spots was “no more crude than a middle-school joke about the planets, or one planet in particular.”

The people at Secret Weapon Marketing are probably enjoying putting in a few extra hours writing snappy one-liners about the Angus fixation of Carl’s and Hardee’s. The braintrust at CKE can only fuss and fume about how misunderstood they are for their Angus love.

Perhaps this is why JITB has sales of $2.7-billion in 2,000 locations while CKE has sales of $1.5-billion from 3,100 locations.

Rules to Live By
I have friends and professional associates in both music and marketing, but in each case, there are certain rules by which we live. One, treat everybody the way you expect to be treated. And two, never go up against a comedian.

[tags]Jack in the Box advertising analysis, CKE lawsuit, marketing, positioning, fast food advertising, advertising industry news, Scott G[/tags]