When it comes to fast food mascots, Jack from Jack In The Box is one of the most well-known.
With his oversized face, mischievous smile, and big hat, Jack has become a lasting sign of the chain’s playful and irreverent spirit.
But Jack’s past is anything but simple. It is full of controversies, anger, and twists and turns that no one could have seen coming.
In this piece, we’ll go into detail about Jack from Jack in the Box and his strange past.
We’ll talk about his controversial ads, how he went from being a bad guy to a hero, and how he became a beloved fast-food icon.
Jack in the Box killed Jack
Before Jack became the bumbling CEO that people love today, he was just a clown who got stuck on the roof.
When Robert O. Peterson opened the first Jack in the Box in 1951 in San Diego, California, Jack was the clown head mascot sitting on top of the restaurant’s roof to catch the attention of passing drivers.
The clown head was also a big part of the restaurant’s drive-thrus, but by the late 1970s, the officials at Jack in the Box felt that the clown was a little too childish to be their mascot.
In 1980, Jack in the Box chose to get rid of Jack the Clown. In a TV commercial, they literally blew up Jack and said, “Cute was the old Jack in the Box.”
With Jack gone, the company wanted to get even further away from the idea of clowns in boxes, so they changed the name of some locations to Monterey Jack’s.
In a TV ad, the company did say that the name change wasn’t nearly as popular as cold french fries.
By the middle of the 1980s, Monterey Jack’s was back to being called Jack in the Box, but Jack still wasn’t there.
Jack’s explosive return sparked controversy
Just like when he left, Jack came back to the company with a bang. Rick Sittig and Lee Clow of Chiat/Day Advertising wanted Jack to come back so they could connect with young guys.
They came up with an ad that played off of how he left the show in a big way. In the comeback ad, Jack is a businessman who blows up the office of the people who fired him to get back at them.
No matter how smart the new commercial was, not everyone liked how Jack came back.
When Jack came back in late 1994, the news was full of terrorist attacks, such as a fire bomb on a subway car in New York City, a mail bomb in a neighbourhood of New Jersey, and suicide bombers in the Gaza Strip, which borders Israel.
Critics said the ad was bad timing and didn’t take into account the violence in the news.
“I get that they have to get the attention of male teenagers, who are going to say, ‘Yeah, cool, man,'” Mary Fox, vice president of the business image consulting firm Addison Seefeld & Brew, said at the time. “But I just don’t think it’s right.”
The company defended the ad by saying that the topic had been talked about, but in the end, it was decided that it could be done in a “cartoonishly funny way.” It must have worked because Jack is still alive today.
Jack emerged to help save the restaurant from ruin
They didn’t get Jack to go back to the restaurant just to make funny ads. In the early 1990s, Jack in the Box did not have a good time.
Profits were down, and they were losing ground fast as a major fast-food competitor.
John Truscott, who was in charge of Jack’s account at the agency, said, “They had put a lot of effort into promoting a wide range of products that were becoming less and less important in the market.”
In the early 1990s, Jack in the Box had a lot of problems, and one of them was that its products didn’t stand out.
In 1993, when E. coli bacteria from badly cooked burgers sent hundreds of customers to the hospital and killed four children, they were at the centre of one of the worst fast food scams ever.
The public relations nightmare cost the food chain $140 million and almost put the business out of business.
In addition to putting in place a stricter food safety program, Jack in the Box rebranded itself by changing its clown mascot into a “no-nonsense, smart-talking exec.”
Sittig said that the goal with Jack was to get everyone to “forget about the E. coli incident and… give the company a new look.”
AdWeek says that “18 consecutive quarters of growth” have happened since the Jack campaign began, which shows how well the new Jack worked for the business.
Jack isn’t afraid to use some muscle on critics
If you don’t like the food from Jack in the Box, you should keep that to yourself. Because Jack will beat you to death if he finds out. Don’t believe us?
Just look at this video from 1997 that made fun of COPS. In the commercial called “The Visit,” Jack goes to the house of Brad Haley, who has been calling the restaurant “junk in the box.”
Jack drags Haley out onto the yard and forces him to eat a burger, fries, and shake. When Haley finally agrees that the food is good, Jack tells his critic that he could snap his “arm like a twig.” Savage, Jack!
Dick Sittig told AdWeek, “It took me a year to sell that one and another year to get it made.”
The ad only ran after 10 p.m., and some strict critics didn’t like it. However, it was a hit for Sittig and won an advertising award the next year.
Jack has some interesting family history
Okay, so we can’t talk about Jack without talking about the fact that his head is a ping-pong ball even though his body is normal.
So, what’s going on? Well, Jack in the Box’s website says that the strange clown head is caused by a genetic change that only affects the men in Jack’s family tree.
Yes, Jack’s wife Cricket and his mother are normal human women. On the other hand, Jack’s father and son have clown heads like Jack. Yes, it’s strange.
We might as well say that Jack’s family is a little bit broken while we’re talking about them. Jack is the most famous member of his family.
He runs a million-dollar fast-food empire, but he also has some hick cousins in Philadelphia who have mullets growing out of their clown heads and probably like to throw rocks at trains.
Even more interesting is the fact that another ad showed that Jack has a cousin in jail.
No one ever says for sure what Jim Box is in jail for, but since Jack likes to fight and Jim said he’d “kill” for a bonus jack combo, he’s probably not there for insider dealing.
He was nearly killed by a bus in 2009
Being Jack isn’t easy. Even though he has given Jack in the Box a lot of success since coming back, he was almost killed by a bus in 2009.
In the Super Bowl ad, Jack is talking to a coworker as he walks across a crossroads on Hope Street, which is ironic because he gets hit by a city bus.
With a broken ping-pong head, Jack’s future was still unknown, and people were told to go to hangintherejack.com to leave well wishes for their favourite clown hero.
As part of a long marketing campaign, the ad showed Jack coming out of a coma to stop the company from changing its name to Phil in the Box.
The real reason for the advertising effort was, of course, that the company was changing its logo. The new logo put more emphasis on the word “Jack” and had a bigger menu.
Considering that 67,000 people signed up to get details on Jack’s hospitalization, it’s clear that sometimes it pays to run over your mascot with a bus.
He ran for president of the United States
Jack is a man of the people, and that doesn’t just mean that he sells cheap combo meals to the public. It also means that he would be willing to be their commander-in-chief.
Or at least make an effort to do so. During the 1996 election for president of the United States, the made-up mascot and CEO of Jack in the Box ran against Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.
The fast food chain ran a silly ad that showed Jack as a family man and politician who cared about things like education, the environment, and milkshakes, which were important to Americans.
But Jack didn’t just make one ad. His company also made pins and car stickers that said things like “Back Jack for President” and “Don’t blame me, I voted for Jack.”
You can even get some of Jack’s pins and stickers on eBay if you are a fan of campaign items from failed presidential candidates.
Even though Jack may not have won the election, the company’s website says that in one national poll, Jack beat Clinton. Fans told Jack to run for office in 2008, but he stayed in the burger business.
He’s been called “tone deaf” for a tongue-in-cheek ad
Every Jack in the Box ad with Jack has been about making people laugh, and the ads often try to be edgy.
Critics have said in the past that the company’s humor tries to go too far, and in 2018, an ad once again put Jack in the hot seat.
In a tongue-in-cheek way, Jack and other actors kept saying “my bowls” in the ad for the company’s bowl menu items.
In the ad, a lawyer even tells Jack that he can’t say “enjoy my bowls” because it sounds sexual.
Critics at AdWeek called the ad “tone-deaf” during the #MeToo movement, and Golin Public Relations called it “dangerous” and “lazy” for the brand.
People on social media also wanted to say something. Some used the hashtag #boycottjackinthebox, while others said that people were “making issues out of non-issues.”
No matter what you think of the commercial, Jack did what he set out to do, which was to get people talking about his bowls.
Jack said goodbye to its creator after 20 years
Rick Sittig is Jack. He was the driving force behind Jack’s return in 1994. He also directed all of Jack’s commercials, and (maybe?) it’s his voice that says all of Jack’s snarky lines.
Sittig, on the other hand, said in 2015 that he was done with his clown-headed alter ego after 20 years.
Sittig’s advertising firm, Secret Weapon Marketing, lost the account with Jack in the Box for unknown reasons, and Sittig wrote a sad goodbye to the character on Facebook.
Part of the message said, “We’re glad to have helped you become so well-known. And we are proud to have helped Jack in the Box grow from 1200 to 2200 stores.
When we first started working together, your stock price was $3. Who would have thought it would reach $91?”
Even though Sittig may not be involved with the character he made popular, Jack’s voice in 2018 is almost the same as it was in earlier Jack ads. Hmm, that was a really good group, or could there be a plot?
Jack’s Reddit AMA revealed he’s a complex guy
You might think that Jack is just a corporate clown with a big nose whose only goal is to grow his fast-food business, but you’d be wrong. Jack is a complicated person who has many different hobbies and some strange habits.
In 2018, Jack took part in a Reddit AskMeAnything session, where he talked about everything from his morning routine (eight hours of meditation followed by a two-minute shower) to why he drinks Cholula hot sauce.
Jack sometimes takes his job a little too seriously, and he even tries to teach the curly fries what to do.
Jack’s life isn’t all about burgers and fries, though. He also likes Snoop Dogg’s music and met his wife at a Meat Riot show in Oakland, California, in the 1980s.
Did we say that Jack used to play in a heavy metal band called Hot Mess? For all you headbangers, there is even video proof.
FAQs – The Strange History Of Jack In The Box’s Jack
The advertising firm for the business, Marsteller Inc., made the first Jack in the Box mascot.
Jack In The Box used the Jack mascot for the first time in a commercial in 1977.
Why did the original Jack In The Box ads generate controversy?
Some people found the original Jack In The Box ads creepy and disturbing because the main figure, Jack, acted and looked in ways that were strange.
The 1982 food poisoning outbreak, which originated from undercooked hamburgers served at a Jack In The Box location in Oregon, significantly damaged the chain’s reputation and sales.
In the 1990s, Jack In The Box changed the Jack mascot by making him friendlier, giving him a new voice, and making him look less scary.
Customers liked the new ads for Jack in the Box, which helped to improve the chain’s brand and image.
The Jack In The Box chain still uses the Jack mascot, although his appearance and personality have evolved over the years.
Yes, Jack In The Box has been in trouble in recent years over things like food safety and how they treat their employees.
Jack in the Box has taken steps to deal with these problems, such as putting in place new means to make sure food is safe and updating its labour policies.
As the fast food industry continues to change and face new challenges, it is still hard to say what will happen to the Jack In The Box name. But the famous mascot is still a big part of what the chain is and how it presents itself.