JibJab sues White Castle over social media campaign

Humor site JibJab doesn’t think White Castle’s latest ad campaign is very funny, and has filed a lawsuit to stop the fast food chain from using its name to promote “chicken rings” on Facebook.

JibJab, which gained global fame for a presidential parody in 2004, makes satire videos and online greeting cards like “elf yourself” that let people put their faces on animated figures.

The company this week sued White Castle over a recent social media campaign called “Jib Jab Chicken Ring” in which the chain sought to promote a food that appears as no. 7 on the site Top 13’s list of “Gross Fast Food items”

Jib Jab claims that White Castle’s promotion¬†featured a tweet “5 minutes of @JibJab #fame?” and Facebook ads with the word “Jib Jab.” The animation firm also claims White Castle’s promotion borrowed its own style of “old fashioned caricatures of mustachioed men, characters with disproportionately large heads and animated jaws.”

A spokesperson from White Castle said lawyers from the two companies have been in discussion but declined to offer further details.

The case raises interesting questions about what ideas can be used in social media. JibJab has sued others in the past, including Toyota for using a talking, tap-dancing George Washington in a President Day’s ad.

Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing has accused JibJab of hypocrisy for using the First Amendment to defend their unauthorized use of the tune to “This Land Is your Land,” but then turning around to sue others.

In the case of White Castle, which gained recent fame through a popular comedy and Beastie Boys songs, the chain may be on thin ice because of its use of the JibJab name. Under trademark law, the test is whether there is a “likelihood of confusion” among consumers.

White Castle appears to have hit on a clever social marketing idea (to the extent that promoting orb-shaped chicken is ever a good idea) by encouraging fans to engage with it online, but it hit a trip wire when it used the Jib Jab name.

White Castle has already removed the “Jib Jab Chicken Ring” campaign from its Facebook timeline, but Jib Jab may be pursuing the suit in an effort to extract dollars. Its complaint (posted below) asks for $2 million.

The burger chain has far from given up on social media altogether though. Witness how it is promoting “Wedding Wednesday” on its timeline:

Jib Jab v White Castle