Jack in the Box trolls McDonald’s over broken ice cream machines

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Jack in the Box will take over McBroken.com, a website that helps consumers find out whether their local McDonald’s has a working ice cream machine, for the month of March, per details emailed to Marketing Dive. Starting today (March 3), the QSR will run banners on the site, which will also direct consumers to their nearest Jack in the Box location.
  • The troll campaign taps into consumer frustration with McDonald’s and its notoriously out-of-service ice cream machines. The supports Jack in the Box’s Oreo Cookie Mint Shake and comes as McDonald’s reintroduced its popular Shamrock Shake ahead of St. Patrick’s Day.
  • The effort demonstrates how challenger QSR brands can creatively use competitive sparring tactics while tapping into consumer culture. It’s the first major campaign developed with Small Girls PR, which the chain named as its new public relations and integrated campaigns agency of record after a competitive review.

Dive Insight:

Jack in the Box’s campaign, which encourages consumers not to get “McShammed” this St. Patrick’s Day, is a creative use of competitive sparring tactics that have been used by QSR marketers for years, aside from a period early in the pandemic when brands backed off as marketing priorities shifted.

McDonald’s is notorious for its ice cream machines being broken, to the point where the chain has faced a $900 million lawsuit and an FTC investigation. Jack in the Box’s effort revolves around a takeover of McBroken.com, a website launched in October 2020 that taps into the McDonald’s mobile API to determine if the ice cream machine is working at the chain’s locations.

The takeover helps to raise awareness of Jack in the Box and its similar ice cream offerings, including a limited-edition Oreo Cookie Mint Shake. By providing a link to the Jack in the Box app and providing a coupon, the chain hopes to engage with McDonald’s customers at a point of frustration. The campaign will also include forthcoming out-of-home ads that are strategically positioned near key McDonald’s franchises known to have out-of-order machines. Overall, the campaign resembles buzzy efforts by Burger King that looked to divert traffic from McDonald’s to its locations.

The campaign is the first major effort from Small Girls PR, the chain’s new public relations and integrated campaigns AOR. The agency was selected after a competitive review due to its experience creating culture and connecting brands to trending conversations — increasingly an imperative for brands, especially QSR ones. Small Girls PR will handle public relations and refine strategic efforts, along with producing events and mailers with its in-house experiential team, per details shared with Marketing Dive.

Previous Jack in the Box campaigns have looked to tap into consumer culture with efforts around Discord and a celebrity-focused virtual restaurant.

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