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Jack’s Secret Weapon Ad Too Saucy for Some Television Viewers

Jack in the Box Inc.’s latest TV commercial touting a couple of new test-market sandwiches is, um, tasteless.

The not-fit-for-prime-time spot features Jack, the fictitious, clown-faced chief executive officer, sitting in a hotel hot tub with his wife and another couple whose expressions and remarks are suggestive of, um, swingers.

The couple never make an outright advance, but after Jack, oblivious to their thinly veiled, but risqu & #233; expressions, stops raving about his jalapeno and pepperjack burger and crispy chicken sandwich , the woman says, “Let’s make a Jack sandwich.”

While as off-color a fast-food commercial as you’re likely to see, at least on network TV, it probably won’t prompt a lawsuit since it doesn’t imply that the ingredients are superior to a competitor’s. And Kathleen Anthony, a spokeswoman for the San Diego-based company, said last week that as far as she knew, no one had called to complain. But some viewers who brought it to the attention of the San Diego Business Journal said they thought it was offensive, particularly for youngsters.

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Anthony also said she was unaware whether the sandwiches, being tested in San Diego, were bound for systemwide distribution, but that the ad, which began airing here in October, was slated to run through the end of this week.

A shorter than normal run? Any reason for that?

“There’s no usual frequency,” Anthony said. “Later in November we’re going to be advertising something else. It all depends on the product and the market. There are a lot of variables.”

Santa Monica-based Secret Weapon Marketing created this ad and has been Jack in the Box’s ad agency since the mid-1990s, Anthony added.

We don’t know how the “Let’s-make-a-Jack-sandwich” spot was created, but we can imagine that the scene at the agency might have gone something like this:



Adman No. 2, as he hangs up the phone:


That was Jack. He wants us to spice up his TV spot for the test run of two new menu items, a chicken sandwich and a burger with jalapeno and pepperjack cheese. He says make it hot.



Adman No. 1:


Good idea. For a long time now we’ve focused a series of irreverent ads on a straight-arrow, suit-and-tie-wearing executive with a round, oversized head, who’s cool and drives a topless red sports car.



Adman No. 2:


Right. But is Jack hot?



Adman No. 1:


He’s never going to be named “Sexiest Man Alive,” but some women might find him attractive.



Adman No. 2:


(Pauses as he scratches his head and stares at the ceiling.) How about this: We show Jack walking into Cheetahs carrying several of his takeout bags and re-emerging with his tie loosened and lipstick marks all over his head.



Adman No. 1:


No, that’s crossing the line from irreverent to X-rated. Furthermore, Cheetahs offers burgers, and your ad could imply that Jack’s are better, which is just asking for a lawsuit. I’m thinking hot, but as in hot tub. That’s it! Jack and his wife will be in a hot tub with another couple who make suggestive remarks that adults will perceive as an invitation to swing. Kids won’t get it because it’s cleverly concealed adult humor, and neither will straight-arrow Jack, who misinterprets their wantonness as an opportunity to tout his new sandwiches.



Adman No. 2:


That’s why you’re adman No. 1 and I’m just the No. 2 guy.



Adman No. 1:


Think of me as your mentor.


Send media and marketing news to Connie Lewis via e-mail:

clewis@sdbj.com.

She may also be reached at (858) 277-6359.

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