All Hail the Latest Media Mogul: Jack in the Box

IDEA SPOTTING: Chain's In-Store Branded Videos Aid in Revamping Image

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CHICAGO ( -- Jack in the Box is taking inspiration from the internet-video phenomenon to bring its ball-headed Jack Box character to life in its restaurants.
Jack of all platforms: Consumers connect to the chain by creating content online.
Jack of all platforms: Consumers connect to the chain by creating content online.

The No. 5 burger chain has been testing Jack TV, a series of 33 branded films and interstitials played on flat-screen TVs in about 115 concept stores in Seattle and Waco, Texas. The videos make up 46 minutes of branded content; some simply entertain, while others promote the chain's all-products-all-day menu or made-to-order sandwiches. The idea is to entertain customers as they wait for their orders with digital shorts that run during the stores' heaviest-traffic times.

Most of the content is produced by Secret Weapon Marketing, Santa Monica, Calif., Jack in the Box's agency of record. Other videos come from customers as part of an online consumer-generated-content program launched in November called the Jackies. The program, promoted through Jack in the Box's nine-month-old MySpace page and linked to the corporate website, allows visitors to submit their odes to Jack for a chance to win cash and a space on Jack TV.

Friend magnet
The site, which is updated twice a month, has drawn more friends than even Burger King's King, said Joanne O'Brien, group account director for Secret Weapon Marketing, in a Feb. 8 presentation to retail marketers. In the future, such microsites will be integrated into all product launches. The company also is planning a major redesign of its website to make it more user-friendly for customers, media, investors and franchisees.

It's all part of a larger re-imaging plan to make the brand "more holistic" and draw more dine-in customers, said Greg Joumas, VP-advertising and marketing communications for Jack in the Box. Because of the cult-like connection consumers already have with the character famous for his oversized pingpong-ball head and plastic smile, the mostly West Coast burger chain wanted to redesign the restaurant experience to make it fit how customers feel about Jack.

"Our strategy is to make consumers feel like this is a restaurant Jack would approve," Mr. Joumas said. "A big piece of what Jack stands for is great advertising, so we're trying to leverage the great equity we have in him."

Better lighting and wooden chairs
The prototype stores have been in the market for about a year and are based on a 2005 brand-health study by Jack in the Box covering the menu, services, store experience and communications. The stores feature coffeehouse-style interiors with rich, autumnal colors; replace fluorescent tubes with soft lighting; and scrap vinyl booths in favor of wooden and leather chairs. The stores are estimated to cost between $100,000 and $150,000, according to analyst reports.

Management allocated a "significant" portion of the budget to pay for the production and evaluation of the new media plan, the company's first such investment, Ms. O'Brien said. Mr. Joumas wouldn't disclose spending.

Jack in the Box spent $83 million in 2005 and $58 million in the first three quarters of 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. It upped internet spending to $712,000 from $173,700 during the first three quarters of the year compared to the same period in 2005. The San Diego-based marketer also boosted spending in magazines and cable TV while cutting Sunday magazines, spot radio, outdoor and local radio for the same period.

But the big question is whether Jack does more than entertain: Does he sell burgers?

Sales up 'significantly'
The fast feeder says yes. Jack in the Box used quantitative satisfaction research and focus groups to measure success and found not only that sales rose "significantly" but that customers' perceived wait times fell and dine-in traffic increased. Traffic overall grew in the double digits, Mr. Joumas said, and customers said the stores looked "more like Jack owned them," which helped to better differentiate the brand.

Not surprisingly, some customers preferred the Jack videos to those promoting the chain's food or service. To avoid content burnout, Mr. Joumas said, Jack in the Box is considering broadcasting nonbranded content such as news and sports scores on the digital channel.
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