"I Don’t Know Jack Anymore…"

2009
Feb
1

Jack Cheezburger
(see more burger mascots at “Icon Has Cheezburger”)

I know Jack in the Box. I have had a long and, shall we say, checkered relationship with the chain of fast fooderies. I worked at one while in College. I have driven through for more Jumbo Jacks than I can count and have never given up on the 2-for-99-cent tacos (truly the West Coast/Mexican Food answer to White Castle sliders). I have worn the Jack-Head Antenna Ball proudly when I had a car with a vertical antenna. And in 2006, I included the chain’s boss/mascot in my list of The Biggest Bad Clowns for MSNBC.COM, for which there were serious ramifications.

I have long felt that the chain’s commercials were the best in its business (sorry, Burger King & Bogusky) with CEO Jack doing a perfect deadpan through scenarios personal and corporate that were even more absurd than he was, while skillfully tied in to one menu item or another. If Carl’s Jr. consistently crossed the line into tastelessness, Jack toe-danced on that fine line like the Ballet Trockadero. Examples follow:

(This one had the added benefit of getting a pissy Bad PR response from Carl’s Jr.)

Okay, get the message? They’re funny, and they help you overlook any doubts about what’s in the meat. But during the 43rd Super Bowl (in regions where Jack has locations), the Jack Box character jumped the shark AND nuked the fridge by getting hit by a bus.

Yes, that was an url at the end of the spot for HangInThereJack.com, where they are blogging video clips on an hourly basis that whipsaw from the grim to to the silly. At first, they had a ‘message box’ in the now blank left column where you could leave your condolences, but I’m sure that got way out of bounds very quickly. As a whole, this stunt comes across as so tasteless that the muscles in my face I use when cringing are getting sore. If BK, Carl’s and In-and-Out joined forces, they couldn’t do worse.

One interesting hint in the ongoing ‘story’ is the repetition of the phrase “massive head trauma”. Could this whole thing be a set-up for a redesign of the Jack Box character with a smaller, less plastic, more naturally human head? I don’t see how that could redeem this awful mess, and I have a lot of trouble imagining Jack looking differently than he has the last umpteen years (Before his revival as “CEO Jack”, the “clown head you talked to” at the drive thru was much uglier). I’d hate to think they’re taking a long-running successful commercial formula and… throwing it under the bus.

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