Mark Hamill with Jack
Mark Hamill with Jack in a restaurant kitchen.

A new advertising campaign from San Diego-based Jack in the Box highlights the return of classic menu items, including french-toast sticks and spicy chicken strips, along with the return of Luke Skywalker, legendary actor Mark Hamill.

Before he was slaying storm troopers and saving the galaxy, Hamill was slinging burgers, curly fries and those oh-so-good tacos at a drive-up window that was the perfect stage to hone his acting chops.

In the 1970s, at age 18, Hamill, as a student at Los Angeles City College, worked the drive-thru window at a local Jack in the Box. After his first day on the job, he was fired for impersonating clown voices while taking orders (a nod to Jack in the Box’s original logo).

“I thought it was amusing but my boss thought it was annoying,” Hamill said a statement. “My boss told me to stop, which I did. But, when the work day was finished he said, ‘You know what Mark, if you can’t take this job seriously, maybe this isn’t right for you.’ In other words, go and never come back.”

A hilarious Jack in the Box-produced video begins with these words on the screen: “Mark Hamill was once fired from a Jack in the Box for impersonating a clown in the drive thru. Today, he’s coming back.”

In the video, Hamill, now aged 70, resumes his role at the drive-thru window and recreates the same clown impression that got him canned more than 50 years ago. The video shows unsuspecting customers at the drive-up speaker only to hear a clown voice say, “Welcome to Jack in the Box. May I take your order?”

Then, the confusion turns into joy as patrons recognize who was taking their order. The customers not only get their food, but also a selfie, autograph and conversation with the cultural icon. “I have grown up with you,” says a young woman in the video, as we feel the emotion of fandom.

The ad campaign featuring a celebrity with an authentic connection to the brand was created in collaboration with ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles. It marks the first time the agency has worked for the brand since 1997. The agency first introduced the Jack Box character in 1994 before parting ways in 1997.

From a strategic standpoint, TBWA is on a quest to restore the legacy of Jack Box as CEO. Jack in the Box said the agency’s creative work is grounded with the W.W.J.B.D. (What Would Jack Box do?) belief. (There’s no truth to the rumor that Jack Box is Hamill’s father.)

Two 15-second spots are scheduled to run on TV, including fall football telecasts, with social media support across TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter and Meta properties, with additional support on YouTube, Spotify and Pandora radio. The multiplicity of advertising channels demonstrates how marketers like Jack in the Box are engaging with younger, digitally-native customers.

In addition, Jack in the Box will offer a limited-edition comic book, titled “The Return of Mark Hamill: A Comic Book.” The company said the comic book is “the never-before-told, mostly-true story of Mark Hamill’s early days working the Jack in the Box drive-thru and his bittersweet departure. It’s a story of fate, friendship and redemption, decades in the making.” Starting Aug. 11, the comic book will be available to fans for free at www.shopjackinthebox.com while supplies last.

“Our spicy chicken strips and french-toast sticks are two of Jack in the Box’s fan-favorite menu items, and we’re excited to bring them back for a limited time along with our most famous former employee, Mark Hamill,” Sheena Dougher, senior director, marketing communications, Jack in the Box, said in a statement.

Jack in the Box, founded and headquartered in San Diego, operates and franchises more than 2,200 restaurants across 21 states, and Del Taco with approximately 600 restaurants across 16 states. 

NBC 7, Telemundo 20 Support ‘Clear the Shelters’ Pet Adoptions

KNSD-TV/NBC 7 San Diego and KUAN-TV/Telemundo 20 San Diego, both operated by NBCUniversal, will participate again throughout the month of August in “Clear the Shelters” (“Desocupar Los Albergues” in Spanish),  a nationwide pet adoption and donation campaign.

This year’s eighth annual Clear the Shelters, spearheaded by NBCUniversal Local, will involve about 70 animal shelters and nonprofit rescue organizations throughout Southern California.

NBC 7’s Steven Luke with a puppy.

Online donations can be made through fundraising partners Greater Good Charities and The Animal Rescue Site, which will cover credit-card transaction fees and direct 100 percent of donations to the shelters and rescues in need. Viewers can donate to a participating shelter or rescue group by visiting www.ClearTheSheltersFund.org.

National sponsors are Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a science-based, pet nutrition company, and Zoetis, a global animal health company. Southern California sponsor is Subaru.

The San Diego Humane Society said 703,048 animals have found homes since the nationwide Clear the Shelters campaign began in 2015. Of those, 4,402 have been adopted locally.

San Diego Press Club Now Accepting Annual Awards Entries

The San Diego Press Club is now accepting entries for its 49th annual Excellence in Journalism awards program. The deadline is 9 p.m., Monday, Aug. 15.

Ten divisions with 130 categories are open for entries from reporters, writers, artists, photographers, videographers, corporate communicators and public relations professionals. The categories cover a wide range of topics and writing styles, including breaking news, investigative reporting, editorial, photo essay, press release writing, reviews and specialty reporting.

This year’s wildcard category, themed “Covid: Adapting to the New Normal,” will recognize a story or coverage that addresses living in a world that has changed because of the pandemic, quarantine or the threat of continued surges.

About 500 awards will be presented. The timeframe for eligible entries is from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022. For entry information, visit www.sdpressclub.org.

“Being recognized by these awards can make a significant impact on someone’s career,” said Terry Williams, executive director, San Diego Press Club. “Entries are peer-judged by professionals from other press clubs around the country, so the process is a good way to gauge a person’s level of proficiency in their profession and how they measure up in the broader community of professionals.”

Judges are expected to include members of journalism professional organizations from around the country, including press clubs in San Francisco, New Orleans, Rochester, Florida, Cleveland, Orange County, Milwaukee and Alaska.

Award recipients will be recognized at an outdoor evening event on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Balboa Park at the House of Pacific Relations.

Fox 5 San Diego to Televise LA Rams 2022 Preseason Games

KSWB-TV Fox 5 San Diego will broadcast the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams’ three 2022 NFL preseason games in August.

The station said its telecast schedule includes 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13, vs. Los Angeles Chargers; 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 19 vs. Houston Texans; 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 27 vs. Cincinnati Bengals.

Fox 5 has aired Rams preseason games since 2017, the same year the Chargers returned to Los Angeles after 55 years in San Diego (1961–2016).

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.