Thursday, June 07, 2007

Has Jack in the Box gone too far?

CKE Restaurants Inc. (parent company of the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's fast food chains) sued Jack in the Box Inc. in federal court in Santa Ana, CA, accusing the San Diego-based chain of deceptive advertising relating to the business end of a cow.
The suit cites TV ads that tout Jack in the Box's sirloin burgers and lampoon those made with Angus beef, which happens to be what's in the Carl's Jr. Six Dollar Burger and the Hardee's Thickburger (and in premium burgers sold at McDonald's and Burger King).
In one ad, Jack, the mascot whose head looks like a ping pong ball, is asked to point to a cow's "angus area" on a diagram.
He says sheepishly: "I'd rather not."
In the other, employees laugh hysterically when a colleague talks about rivals' "Angus burgers."
The suit, which claims that Jack's sirloin burgers are made from "frozen sirloin butt meat," seeks unspecified damages and asks that Jack in the Box run "corrective advertising."
There are two elements at play here.
One is the legal side, and a jury will decided if CKE has a legitimate case.
It all depends how much damage CKE endured – and the burden of proof is theirs.
Several legal experts on Fox News discussed the legal merit.An ad that is clearly intended to be funny, gives the advertiser normally more protection.
The main issue in this case is, if the ad crossed the line.
The panel members on Fox News were divided.
Time and jury members will tell us what will prevail: free speech or offensive and harmful content.
The other element is the marketing one.
Using humor as a PR tool has been used for decades, if not centuries.
The tricky part is to define how far to go– and how effective it will work for a product or company.
Not many people will have a problem with the ad campaign of Ameriquest.
But humor can also be used to make the competition look foolish.
This is dangerous: not only can it backfire, but it can also lead to lawsuits, as the Angus Case proves.
In this case, it also gives misinformation about the product, implying that the source is not from prime beef.
"While Defendant may find humorous the aural and phonetic similarities between the words `Angus' and `anus,' " the suit says, the link is made to create "the erroneous notion that all cuts of Angus beef are derived from the anus of beef cattle.
If they want to have a war, we will take the gloves off," Andy Puzder CKE's CEO.
The irony is that both CKE (and the advertising agency that made the ads) got heaps of free publicity.
The agency, Secret Weapon Marketing of Santa Monica, CA will from now on be associated with the ads.
This could backlash - potential customers might be turned off by the crude humor.
The statement of their Chief Creative Officer Dick Sittig in Adweek magazine doesn’t help as well – he pointed out that the humor was "no more crude than a middle-school joke about the planets - one planet in particular."
Once the dust settles, it will be interesting to watch the legal and marketing fallout……

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