Do Fast Food Chain Ads Target Pot Smokers?

In Life by Kim Muraro , on Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 9:01 AM (PDT)


Taco Bell, Jack in the Box and Other Fast Foodies Want Harold and Kumar's Business

Taco Bell's "fourth meal" campaign has always come across as a bit obnoxious -- we're all for freedom of choice, but, with obesity rates as high as they are, should a fourth meal really be encouraged for anyone?

But it turns out that the average citizen may not be who the Bell is trying to reel in.

Read: Spanish Town Wants To Pay Debts With Marijuana, a website that covers addiction and recovery issues, reports that companies like Taco Bell and Jack in the Box are specifically targeting stoners in their ad campaigns, pitching their junk food goodies to those who, like big-screen tokers Harold and Kumar, have serious cases of the munchies after sparking up some, ahem, recreational substances.

Is TheFix being a little paranoid, or is this stoners-as-fast food-target theory a real thing?

A rundown of TheFix's evidence:

-- MTV reality TV star Rob Drydek has a new line of microwavable burritos called Loud Mouth Burritos, and he's pimped the treats on his Jackass-y MTV show Fantasy Factory. TMZ ran a story alleging the burritos are being marketed "directly to stoners," and says it makes sense that Drydek would hock his food on MTV, given the "longstanding overlap of three activities: watching MTV, smoking pot and chowing down on frozen burritos." Bonus evidence: the Loud Mouth burritos have 420 calories each, which TheFix and TMZ hint is a nod to "420" as a symbol of pot culture.

Read: 73-Year-Old Grandma Arrested for Running a Drug Ring

-- The actors in burger restaurant commercials often look like a "glassy-eyed Spicoli," The Fix reports, like the confused van-driving stoner in a Jack in the Box campaign.

-- Taco Bell pitched its Doritos-flavored taco shell to those with "late night munchies" and saw a six percent sales increase in the first quarter of 2012.

-- General Mills rolled out a web campaign that featured Cheech & Chong, the original, pre-Harold and Kumar pop culture pot heroes.

-- A new Sonic commercial features a man "hallucinating" about giant tater tots.

-- Carl's Jr. has a "wake and bake" campaign for its breakfast offerings.

-- And Denny's has a campaign touting its all-night menu, complete with a young dude noshing at Denny's with a unicorn, a dinosaur and a leprechaun.

OK, TheFix … though we'd argue that a lot of people, of the pot-smoking and not-so-baked varieties, pig out on Taco Bell after hours, those are some compelling examples you have compiled.

Read: Lady Gaga on '60 Minutes': "I Smoke A Lot of Pot"

"If you're targeting that heavy fast food user you need to speak their language," brand consultant Denise Yohn tells "One way to do that is to talk about partying and munchies. To the mainstream audience it may just sound like late nights and drinking, but to a certain audience they're talking about getting stoned."

TheFix also points out that no one seems to be offended by these stoner-aimed campaigns, not the stoners they're stereotyping nor parents who are likely against the drug use.

"That makes this a bit of (a) watershed moment,"'s Adam K. Raymond writes. "We've arrived at a point when image-conscious corporations marketing products to the users of an illegal drug is not just common, not just acceptable but downright profitable. Running shoes for cocaine users can't be far off."

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