In the post-#MeToo era, most companies have avoided sexual references and other innuendo in their advertising.
There's good reason for this—as a culture, we're still dealing with the realities of workplace sexual misconduct and seeing some of these scenarios played out on screen can make many people uncomfortable.
The burger chain Jack in the Box, however, doesn't seem too concerned about this.
Their newest ad makes "repeated references to male genitalia."
Watch the ad here:
The ad, which is promoting the restaurant's new Teriyaki Bowls, plays with how the word "bowls" sounds similar to "balls"—an obvious reference to the slang term for testicles—in many different contexts.
Adweek called it "one of the most tone-deaf ads of the #MeToo era."
In the commercial, the cartoon-headed Jack and some of his coworkers address the camera, saying:
"While other burger places serve the same old stuff, I'm the only one with the bowls to serve something different...You've got some pretty nice bowls there. And so does Dan."
A female co-worker adds, "Those are some nice bowls," and another woman chimes in, "Everyone's gonna want to get their hands on Jack's bowls."
@CBSNews Maybe one mention to the "bowls" would be funny, but the ENTIRE commercial repeated the word so much, it became obnoxious.— Jeanne (@Jeanne)1533877541.0
In a twist that appears to directly attack any who might be sensitive to laughing about sexual innuendo bandied about in a workplace, the ad then cuts to a serious meeting where "an executive" tells Jack he is not allowed to run the ad because many people will find it offensive.
Jack remains oblivious and continues to use the word "bowls" in contexts that make it clearly "balls."
Jack in the Box teriyaki bowls commercial - funny or offensive? https://t.co/dX5vIf5O1i https://t.co/EFWAnwOjN3— KINSEY SCHOFIELD (@KINSEY SCHOFIELD)1533929692.0
Jack in the Box released a statement defending their decision to run the ad:
"As a brand known by its fans for its tongue-in-cheek, playful sense of humor, this ad is simply a creative and humorous expression around the teriyaki bowl product. It intends to highlight how a burger brand, such as Jack in the Box, dares to go beyond the usual fast-food fare and serve something different."
"This ad is not diminishing any movement, and we stand firmly against any form of harassment and value those who have the guts to combat it."
@CBSNews It isn’t brilliant or funny. It’s stupid.— trina d firey (@trina d firey)1533892765.0
Some suspect Jack in the Box is deliberately courting controversy on purpose in an effort to promote their brand.
Earlier this summer, IHOP pretended to change their name to IHOb to promote their new burger menu. Though endlessly derided at the time, IHOP and its decision quickly became the subject of national conversation.
Perhaps Jack in the Box is trying something similar and taking a more dangerous route to do it.
Deb Gabor, CEO of Austin-based Sol Marketing, thought the ad might generate sales advantages:
"It'll alienate some customers, but then again, we're talking about it, so it may bring Jack in the Box to the top of people's awareness."
On Twitter, people aren't sure what to think of the commercial:
Jack-in-the-Box getting bowl-zy with these commercials. #jacksbowls— Kylee Faith (@Kylee Faith)1533602654.0
So apparently my all time fav Jack in the Box radio ad is offensive. I almost peed my pants hearing it. I must ha… https://t.co/mHnI3kDmlD— Kylie Nicole (@Kylie Nicole)1533747098.0
Jack in the box- really??!!! Nice "bowls" on your CEO? #Metoomovement #boycottjackinthebox— Taking the high road (@Taking the high road)1533745016.0
@WorldOfStu This Jack in the Box commercial sound just like the Alec Baldwin SNL Christmas skit from some years back.— Jeffrey Thomas (@Jeffrey Thomas)1533742945.0
Far more sexual innuendos in disney cartoons than a commercial talking about "bowls". I see nothing wrong with the… https://t.co/lrgsZAzQTM— Ewan Whadarmy (@Ewan Whadarmy)1533733654.0
Whether you think the ad is offensive or not, one thing is for sure—we're talking about.
Jack in the Box may have already achieved their goal.