Inside Jack in the Box’s savage roast of McDonald’s broken ice cream machines

Jack in the Box Mint Shake ad making fun of McDonald's broken ice cream machines

“I was shocked another brand didn’t do this earlier,” said Small Girls PR CEO Mallory Blair.

Campaign: Don’t Get McShammed
Company: Jack in the Box
Agency Partners: Small Girls PR; Conscious Minds Studios (graphics and creative content); and Carat (media buying)
Duration: March 2022

Jack in the Box trolled McDonald’s by pointing out the locations of its broken ice cream machines and promoting its own Oreo Cookie Mint Shake in the process.

Strategy

For years, McDonald’s has attracted negative attention because its ice cream machines frequently don’t work. In 2000, a consultant to McDonald’s franchisees conducted a survey of 100 restaurants and found that 25% weren’t serving the desserts because the machines weren’t functional,The Wall Street Journal reported.

That problem has attracted greater scrutiny in recent years. News organizations produced a flurry of stories about the chronic failure; the Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation into it; and the maker of a device designed to fix the ice cream machines filed a $900 million lawsuit against McDonald’s.

Software engineer Rashiq Zahid in 2020 also created a website, McBroken.com, that tracked the locations of broken machines.

Meanwhile, before Small Girls PR had secured a contract with Jack in the Box, creatives at the agency saw Zahid’s tracker as “rife for interesting storytelling and culturally salient moments that we could connect brands to,” said Mallory Blair, CEO and co-founder of Small Girls PR.

At the end of 2021, the agency was able pitch its ideas to Jack in the Box. The fast-food chain approved a campaign, labeled Don’t Get McShammed, that would highlight McDonald’s problem. Earlier this year, Small Girls PR became Jack in the Box’s AOR.

“We spoke a lot with Jack in the Box in our initial conversations about the brand just being an unapologetic brand,” said Blair. “The [quick-service restaurant] wars have inspired a lot of these brands to be clever and cheeky and have friendly fire and jabs at one another with the rise of Twitter.”

She noted that such stunts are not authentic to certain brands, such as Taco Bell, “whereas [with] Jack Box, the CEO character of Jack in the Box, that has always been his heritage,” Blair said.

Small Girls PR saw McShammed as “a really nice way to prove that Jack lives up to its promise to give consumers what they want, when they want it — and point out how competitors fall short.”

Tactics

Blair reached out to Zahid before Jack in the Box greenlit the agency’s idea.

“That’s kind of how we work at Small Girls, is spotting things that could make for interesting campaigns — even if you don’t have the idea yet, you have the kernel,” said Blair. “Frankly, I was shocked that another [QSR] brand didn’t do this earlier. It seemed so obvious.”

Fortunately, Zahid agreed to let Jack in the Box take over his site. But Blair said if he had not agreed, they could have built a different site. 

“The nice thing about layering on top of McBroken is they already have organic traffic,” Blair explained.

In addition to promoting the website once Jack in the Box took over, Small Girls PR also reached out to news organizations in March when there was an update concerning the lawsuits filed by Kytch, the makers of the device designed to fix the machines, against McDonald’s and the manufacturer of its machines.

“We were prepared to hit go and email all the individuals that have covered the ongoing McDonald’s lawsuit previously…knowing that they might be doing an update,” said Blair.

Ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, Small Girls PR also reached out to media to promote Jack in the Box’s Oreo Cookie Mint Shake and highlight that the treat predated McDonald’s Shamrock Shake and Oreo Shamrock McFlurry, Blair said.

“We were able to also make that comparison that not only do they have superior quality and are a wide mover — in the sense that they are widely available, unlike the McFlurries due to the broken machines — but they also were the first to have this particular combination of mint and Oreo,” Blair said.

Small Girls also added a banner to the McBroken site that visitors could click on to receive a discount to the shake at Jack in the Box.

Results

The campaign achieved:

  • More than 45 press placements, including stories in The New York TimesUSA TodayEntrepreneur and Thrillist.
  • Nearly triple the average daily site traffic to McBroken.com during the month of March and double the number of banner click-throughs.

This story first appeared on PRWeek US.

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