Where’s the Internet Rage for Jack in the Box?

Today I saw this ad on TV. It’s for Jack in the Box smoothies:

It seems pretty offensive to me, particularly given that it describes menopausal women as ‘street rat crazy’. When I compare it to the Motrin ad that caused all the furor back in November (I wrote about it here) it seems much worse. Sure, criticisms of the Motrin piece focused on insidious details, but the sexism of this Jack in the Box seems both overt and, well, nasty.

I found a few blog posts criticizing this ad, and some complaints (as well as some support) on Twitter. There’s nothing, though, that matches the uproar that the Motrin ad earned.

So what gives? Why isn’t this ad causing the same fuss? I have a variety of theories, but I don’t want to bias anybody’s responses.


  1. 1. It’s not targeting moms, especially ones who carry their children in slings. That was NOT an audience to screw with.

    2. Menopausal women have either lived long enough to not care, or are too “street rat crazy” to take offense to ads (I know, because my hormone issues brought it on early in my life, i.e. the past couple years. I could give a rat’s ass about that ad)

    3. The Motrin thing looked pretty foolish after the fact, so they may be gunshy.

    4. Jack in the Box ads are generally ridiculous.

  2. Because it’s funny?

    Seriously, what Meg said. Plus, menopausal and post-menopausal women know all about “street rat crazy” and probably smile with recognition when they see it. This demographic shares email jokes about menopause all the time, and most are just like this ad.

    1. I agree — it’s funny! I’m going thru the hot flashes and ‘street rat crazy’ part of my life for the past year and I think it’s hilarious. Menopause is natural. It’s important to keep a sense of humor about life. I don’t think it’s sexist at all. I don’t want to be like a man and not deny the hormone issue. I just want to be treated EQUAL with a man whether I’m street rat crazy or no.

  3. Demographics. Moms are (generally) younger than menopausal women. They’re more organized, more cohesive and have a better network, particularly online. Their role is considered sacred. Who can laugh at a nurturing Mom? Way easier to get away with laughing at the stereotypical menopausal woman, whose complaints are mysterious and sound so weird and superficial. Hot flashes? C’mon .. what can be so tough about that? Menopause = getting older. No one wants to identify with that. No one wants to talk about colon cancer and no one wants to talk about menopause. Both are .. well … equally unseemly. Besides. Do menopausal women have any real buying power? In these challenging economic times*, the American menopausal set is squirreling money away to ensure a choice spot at the retirement complex. Not voting with their consumer dollar. If they’re going to mount the barricades over anything, it’ll be over social security benefits and medicare. Not over something that looks like a bad SNL sketch.

    Besides, if they don’t find this ad funny, it’ll just prove what long suffering husbands have been saying all along : that the hormone unbalance really does make women lose their sense of humour.

    Hmm .. I wonder if postpartum depression hilarity will make its way onto a marketing exec’s storyboard anytime soon?

    * An American restaurant chain : “Jack in the Box is among the nation’s leading fast-food hamburger chains, with more than 2100 quick-serve restaurants in 18 states.”

    (Note: commentary has been exaggerated for effect. Despite appearances, I’m not a bitter, anti-menopausal, anti-mama or anti-marketing-exec PR consultant 😉

  4. Pretty much every how-to thingy I’ve read about comedy says “Don’t even try to joke about cancer. Won’t work. Don’t try it. I know, you’re thinking about how to make a joke about cancer right now. Stop.” Naturally, I’m working on it.

    And I think Meg is on the right track: Motrin’s target audience was moms, the same people they were jabbing. Anyone happen to know who Jack in the Box’s target audience is? (I gather their core is 18-to-35-year-old males, but are they aiming to grow outside that?)

  5. I agree with the comments on the demographics, but – looking at them again… I see two things…

    The protagonist in the smoothie ad? You love to hate her. I mean – gardening in pearls, plastic smile, etc. The visual part of the ad is all about juxtaposition. She’s all cool and together on the outside – but we all totally want to believe she’s capable of murdering us (or any unlucky passers by) with that shiny, never-seen dirt trowel. We love to hate her because she’s rich and suburban (maybe?)… But, because she’s conflicted, we want to see what’s coming next.

    Secondly, she’s visible. In the Motrin ad, who is our protagonist? All we have is a sweet twenty-something voice to attach our own sweet picture to. She’s our neighbor, our college friend, or co-worker. (and of course, our wife or mom).

    Okay, so I’ve got three things… Motrin is, by design, supposed to be a real cure for aches and pains – a slushy, not so much… Motrin is, well, like medicine, I guess. A slushy drink is really cool, if… well, you’re either at a bar (give it a fancy name), or in the sixth grade lunch line. In short, we don’t take the slushy ad too seriously, because we know they don’t want to help us – they just want our money.

    Fun to think about…So – what’s your take?

    1. I definitely think it’s a demographics issue. As others have pointed out, older women probably take things less seriously than new mothers.

      Also, of course, mommy bloggers are highly networked, and the Motrin thing was launched into the stratosphere by a couple of high profile blog posts and tweets. I’m unaware of a similar high-connection phenomenon among 50+ women. It’s pretty clear evidence of the digital immigrant vs. the digital native in action.

  6. I think this ad was paying some homage to Desperate Housewives.. not sure. Either way, it is OBVIOUSLY silly, unlike the Motrin ad, which had some validity.. just my opinion. Oh, ya, and demographics.

  7. All TV advertising is insulting. If you step back from it and watch nothing for, say, a year, and then you get back to it, you will find yourself almost asphyxiated with rage that companies feel they can offend, degrade and talk down to their audience so basely. Then you realize that most of North America has actually accepted this level of perennial perniciousness. And then it make sense why people walk around looking miserable so often.

    Neither the Jack-in-the-Box or the Motrin ad seem too unusual given the pit from whence they spawned.

  8. Laurence got it right: there are loads of ads out there to take offence at … this is just one more.

    I suspect that menopausal women aren’t Jack-in-the-Boxes target market so it won’t lose any sales to them; and their targetted market (men in their 20’s) are going to have a great guffaw as they laugh at the ad, mimic it and then go to J-i-t-B.

    Nobody else mentioned it, so here’s a parody ad for them:

  9. I ran into your partner Julie in Cook Street Village the other day and told her that I don’t know what “street rat crazy” actually means. She didn’t have any definitive answers to that either, …so I’m still wondering: is this a meme I’m clueless about (’cause I don’t watch TV at all, don’t get to the movies that much)?

    Other than that, speaking as a menopausal woman (haha), I thought the ad was stupid but kinda funny, in a self-referential ueber-campy sort of way (the kind that says, “oh look at me, how risky and outre we are, aren’t we clever?”).

    Demographics surely plays a huge role (as per what others said).

    I could even imagine that there are young adults who project a longing to have a cool, campy mom onto the woman in the ad. [At this point I’ll duck, to avoid projectiles hurled by angry young men …and women!]

    But it’s visceral: you just know *she* has one powerful “daddy,” too. So in the end, she’s not scary much, in fact she makes “edgy” …comforting.

  10. The Motrin ad was for a drug
    The Jack-in-the-box ad was for a smoothie

    The Motrin ad was annoying to watch
    The Jack in the Box ad was (ever so slightly) funny.

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