Fast Food Commercial Hierarchy

In this post, dear readers, please give a warm welcome to our guest blogger RottenReu, here to regale us all with his compulsive ranking systems and knowledge of television’s rich cousin, commercials. If you would like to contribute to Tube Top Television, please email

As a kid (and young adult), my mom used to get on me like monster on cookie for refusing to put TV ads on mute. Although I might at this point in my life be, you know, sane, if I had followed her advice back then, I would have no idea now what to WANT if I hadn’t watched commercials at ear-splitting volume back then. So naturally, it’s a tradeoff I’m happy to have made.

As we all know, the one thing that unites all fast-food aficionados is self-respect, which is why I made this hierarchy of Fast Food Ads in the hopes of quantifying the most popular chains’ marketing strategies, to help everyone know which of these chains to support. I’ve formatted this list differently from some other lists that I’ve made in the past, because here, I’m including chains with great commercials, as well as those with terrible ones. I’m going by tiers, so the shit at the end is the worst (and that’s pretty much all you need to know).

Tier 1: “Top Dogz”

3. Carl’s Jr.

The thing CJ’s gets right more than any other chain is playing up the visceral appeal. Fast food eaters, though widely seen as discerning connoisseurs of fine dining, are actually simple creatures when it comes down to it. So, you know, it’s hard not to be turned on by the sultry, dripping burgers displayed on screen. This says nothing of the chicks they hire to get filmed eating said burgers. This example is one of the best things that ever happened to Kate Upton – put her next to a spicy edible specimen like this and everyone will be tricked into thinking she’s the sexy one.

2. Jack in the Box

The best way to prove the success of Jack’s marketing campaign is that their food absolutely sucks, yet it’s one of my most frequented joints. Most other chains have a superstar, a go-to item that I’ll get every time. With J-bo, I can’t really stomach the same shit over and over because it doesn’t taste good enough. Still, I find myself captivated by their commercials.

A notable recent one is the Hot Mess Burger, a somewhat shitty-looking item that I’d never go for, were it not for the song which is obviously excellent. Now, as we’ll see later in this list, jingles can often backfire, but I really like what they did here. It’s such a shitty 80s song from an even shittier 80s one hit wonder that its complete awfulness works. Plus, there’s an Oakland shout-out in it.

Another good thing: Jack knows his audience. Going all-in on your demographic can really help business, cause when you’re that stoned, even Jack in the Box tastes good.

1. Taco Bell

I had a friend once tell me that Taco Bell is the most innovative restaurant of all time, and I did not attempt to argue with him, which is rare for me. The team has made nothing but brilliant marketing decisions from start to finish. Their Twitter presence is second to none, and they continue to come up with exciting new combinations and dope ass deals. Furthermore, Taco Bell knows its strengths. With a truly once-in-a-generation type of talent in the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, they continue to advertise it and include it in the box deals while tirelessly developing other hot new hybrid items.

Perhaps the smartest thing they have ever done is to join forces with Doritos to make the Doritos Locos Taco. Such a move equates to Walter White merging talents with Gus Fring – at the bottom of the chain, we consumers simply stand no chance.

Tier 2: “Apple B’s”

There’s a pretty wide gap in commercial quality between the top 3 and everyone else. This tier consists of chains that do a decent job, but that won’t wow me one way or another.

6. Wendy’s

Wendy’s finds a way to not shoot itself in the foot with its campaign. They put the food first and the clever takes a backseat. This is one of my most frequented chains, which is more a product of proximity (the one on Broadway and 51st is never very out of the way). I like that they took the real Wendy out of the commercials, because she had absolutely nothing going for her. I think we all miss the late Dave Thomas, who had much more charisma than Wendy. Since his passing their ads have been adequately mediocre.

I think the redhead who’s been starring recently is cute; it’s just hard to form a strong opinion one way or another. I guess they make fun of social media a bit which is not a bad strategy.

5. Subway

Subway is the ultimate average fast food marketing.

Well, if THIS GUY eats it...

Well, if THIS GUY eats it…

I hesitate to call it fast food, because there’s no hope for a drive-thru, but you can get in and out pretty quickly. The thing I don’t like about their campaign recently is the utter lack of humor. On the other hand, one must respect the business strategy of getting professional athletes on board to make it seem like a healthy restaurant. Mike Trout, Robert Griffin III and Blake Griffin are all charismatic young bros poised to dominate their respective sports for years to come, so they’ve got us all fooled. I miss the days of Jared and Henry, Clay Henry though. That was a golden age of Subway commercials that you may never see again unless you click these links.

4. Chick Fil-A

Don’t you fucking straw-man me, hear me out. Hating gays doesn’t make you incapable of making good ads, it just makes you an asshole. There’s a real dearth of quality marketing teams in the fast food industry, and I like Chick Fil-A’s commercials because they are clever.

They are basically cows trying to get people to eat chicken instead. It’s got some race-war undertones, promoting an us-vs-them mentality, but if I were a cow, fuck if I’m not doing everything I can to encourage chicken-eating. I have a very socially progressive friend who is addicted to Chick-Fil-A, and though I want to judge her for kinda supporting bigotry against gays, chickens, and gay chickens, I understand how fast food works: taste trumps all. Plus, they said they were cool with gay now, an announcement entirely due to a newfound acceptance and in no way motivated by business.

Bottom Tier: “Captain D’s”

7. Sonic

It’s annoying enough that we Northern California ad-watchers are forced to sit through Sonic commercials as frequently as any other chain’s even though there aren’t any god damn Sonics this side of the Mississippi.

More importantly, those two guys are such tools that Sonic’s campaign seems to add insult to injury. I hate both of them. They were hired to be funny – they literally have one job. Sure, some of their failure is on the script writers, but I consider Paul Rudd and Vince Vaughn to be hilarious people. These douche clowns are going to have to take the fall for the trainwreck that is Sonic’s ad campaign. Married men being controlled by the women in their lives is a hackneyed, stale trope with pretty much zero redeeming value. Just watch this garbage:

8. KFC

What we know KFC for these days – well, I don’t know what channels you guys watch – is the fact that every single commercial break during the NBA playoffs has one of these “I Ate The Bones” ads. It’s a little bit tough to know how to feel about it. On the one hand, it’s obnoxious, stupid and annoying. On the other, it might be one of those situations that, through sheer force and inoculation, somehow becomes funny through repetition, like the education connection jingle. The reason KFC nevertheless ranks so poorly on my list, though, concerns these game day bucket commercials.

“Game day bucket go boom” is one of the worst catch phrases I’ve heard this year, and the slow motion camera work makes no sense, especially when the douche gives the duck-face head nod. The other problem is when the guy says “blah blah blah…Awesome, blah blah blah with chicken….awesome-r.”As if creating a word that billions of people have said constitutes some epic fucking punch line. It’s kinda ad hominem of me, but it’s because of the game day bucket commercial that I refuse to give “I ate the bones” the benefit of the doubt. Plus, you’d think Nate Silver would have something better to do than film that.

9. McDonald’s

Now I have to say, it’s a pretty huge deal that McDonald’s wormed its way out of the bottom spot, though it reminds me of the Charlotte Bobcats this year, who found a way to not finish with the worst record in the NBA only because the Magic lost 60 of their last 50 games. I guess they realized “I’m lovin it” was the most annoying campaign in fast food TV, so they shortened it to “Ba-da ba ba ba,” which is more universally relatable. Point is, the recent Fish McBites ad includes the worst song and hook I’ve ever heard, and should really speak for itself.

Watch at your own risk:

I just don’t see how the marketing scheme adds up. I’m assuming 100 people kill themselves each time they hear the first instance of the hook “fishy fishayyyy,” and that’s a conservative estimate. Even if only twenty are McDonald’s regulars, it still seems bad for business.

But if that weren’t enough, they got Fergie to do her best Fergie on the rap verse that emphasizes the importance of heading down to Mickey D’s to get, get, get get you some. I think to myself “I wish I were listening to My Humps instead” – not a great sign.

10. Burger King

For those of you still reading, who didn’t jump in front of a train after #9, BK’s recent influx of new commercials, deals and characters takes the cake, and proves that one player [fishy fishay] can’t win a title alone – it takes a whole team of garbage.

Aaaand another, just in case you haven’t seen enough…

These speak for themselves; I’m out. Till next time, lose that mute button.

RottenReu is a Bay Area native, musical savant, list making enthusiast, & oh SO much more. What we think really distinguishes him here at Tube Top is his Y chromosome. Hit him on his Twitter if you care to passionately defend any of the Captain D’s or for some company while you hit up the local JBo. 


One thought on “Fast Food Commercial Hierarchy

  1. Pingback: Sonic Restaurants--The Grease Pits of Fast FoodThe History of Daddy Claxton

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