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Critics say sexual puns in Jack in the Box TV ads have no place in the #MeToo era

Critics say new Jack in the Box ads make light of sexual jokes in the workplace. But the company says they’re just jokes that reflect the company’s quirky brand. (iStock Editorial /Getty Images Plus)

Critics are complaining that jokes in a new TV ad for Jack in the Box are too sexually suggestive in today's #MeToo environment.

What's in the ad?

The ad features the fast-food chain’s fictional CEO, Jack, using puns about the male anatomy to describe the company's new teriyaki bowls.

Jack walks into a room, for example, and says he’s the only one with “the bowls to serve something different.”

Jack goes on to say to an male employee, “You’ve got some pretty nice bowls there, and so does Dan.” A female employee also remarks on Dan’s “bowls.”

A string of puns ends with yet another joke: An executive explaining to Jack that his marketing stunt is making company lawyers uncomfortable.

How did one critic describe the ad?

One critic complained that the ad is “tone deaf.”

For example, AdWeek published an article by David Griner titled, “Jack in the Box Just Launched One of the Most Tone-Deaf Ads of the #MeToo Era." The article complains that the stunt makes light of sexual jokes in the workplace.

“In case it needs to be spelled out, here’s the insidiousness of frequent off-color, sexualized humor in the workplace, especially when perpetuated by executives: It puts employees—most often women, though certainly members the LGBTQ community and honestly anyone with mature sensibilities—in the unwinnable dilemma of either complaining (making them outcasts in their own workplace) or quietly tolerating it and being enablers of a toxic environment,” Griner wrote.

The ad also prompted a flurry of Twitter comments. Some sided with Griner, while others said people should lighten up — they're just jokes.

It’s not the first time the fast-food chain has aired controversial ads. Jack in the Box was criticized for its Munchie Meals ads that supposedly glorified the “stoner” culture.

In a statement to CBS News, Jack in the Box and the company that designed the "bowls" ads, David & Goliath, refuted the idea that the commercials downplay the seriousness of sexual harassment.

"[A]s 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," the companies said in a joint statement. "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."

What phrases were used?

A YouTube video of the commercial has the following note in its description:

"Jack in the Box wants it to be known that any of the following phrases are simply a reference to Jack’s delicious Teriyaki Bowls:

“Try my bowls.

“Nice bowls.

“Get your hands on my bowls.

“Taste my bowls.

“Enjoy my bowls.

“Get both my bowls.

“Check out my bowls.

“How are my bowls?

“Look at my bowls.

“Saucy bowls.

“Meaty bowls.

“My jealous competitors are always busting my bowls.

“You’re gonna love my bowls.”

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