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7 Controversial Ads Jack in the Box Doesn't Want You to Remember

The word “tasteless” comes to mind here.

Jack in the Box has always been noted for having some pretty controversial ads. Over the West Coast-centric fast-food chain's many decades of operation—the first restaurant was opened in 1951, per Mental Floss—the company has released dozens of commercials, many of which are genuinely amusing. Still, others pushed a bit too far over the line, tipping from funny into the realm of being tasteless, tone deaf, or, in several cases, genuinely offensive.

Today we're taking a look at seven Jack in the Box commercials that were ill-advised at the time, that have aged even worse, and that the 2,200-location strong chain would surely rather the public forget. But what with YouTube being a thing, that's never going to happen.

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How Boys Are Different Than Girls

jack in the box boys vs girls

In this 2002 ad, the Jack clown character is shown sitting on a bench with his son who asks: "How are girls different than boys?" An obviously flustered Jack then rattles off several stereotypical things about girls, saying: "Girls like clothes. They dance better than us. And they love unicorns." Then he says: "And boys like meat." Then the voice-over describes a new Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich. The spot is moderately sexist toward both males and females, and it's narratively pretty weak, too.

Try My Bowls

jack in the box bowls
YouTube/Funny Commercials

A 2018 Super Bowl commercial for Jack in the Box knew it would be edgy, what with the word "bowls" repeatedly used to hint at a part of the male anatomy. What's less clear is if they had thought about just how tone deaf a sexualized commercial was at the height of the Me Too movement. The "Try My Bowls" ad caused immediate and understandable outrage.

Jack's Son the Vegetarian

jack in the box son
YouTube/John Stanforth

This commercial from the mid-2000s shows Jack's son reading an essay onstage and innocently confusing the words "vegetarian" and "veterinarian." Which would be fine, except that it also shows the Jack in the box clown's utter dismay and shame when, for a brief moment, he thinks his son may be a vegetarian. The spot tastelessly shades people who don't eat meat and also depicts a terrible reaction by a parent.

Junk in the Box

jack in the box junk ad

This ad from 1997 would never be made today, but it should not have been made back then, either. The premise is simple: Jack accosts a man who has spoken ill of his food, compels him to try it, and the guy says he likes it and regrets his previous statements. But Jack compels the unfortunate fellow to rethink his assessment by breaking into his house, chasing him down, and pinning him to the ground with a knee in his back. The ad calls to mind a police chase and violent detention.


jack in the box swingers
YouTube/Coleman Mcclary

Somehow, someone got the idea that promoting a Pastrami and Swiss Ciabatta Sandwich by hinting at partner-swapping sex was a good idea. This ad depicts Jack and a woman who is apparently his wife in a hot tub with a lascivious couple clearly intent on a swinging encounter. It ends with the swinging woman lustily saying: "Let's make a Jack sandwich."

Jack Visits

jack in the box ad home

Everything was going fine with this ad in which the Jack clown character visits his elderly mother, compliments her abilities to be frugal, and then declares that he's offering a pair of croissant sandwiches for just $3. Then, out of the blue, in comes a character supposed to be Jack's aged father saying: "Patty, call the doctor, it's been more than four hours," and glancing down at himself. It's clearly a reference to a drug-stimulated erection lasting too long, and it was in poor taste.

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Jack Visits Burger King

YouTube/Robert Raines

In this 2009 ad, the Jack clown character calls out a rival, Burger King, by name, mocking their slogan of "Have it your way" by saying that unlike at BK, at Jack in the Box you can order any menu item at any time. It's a low blow to attack others rather than promote yourself, and one made worse by the end of the ad. The clown character steps in front of a Burger King and, oddly, says: "Hey, if I'm saying something that's not true," then rips the sleeves off his suit, showing muscled arms, before adding: "Do something about it."

Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven