February 27, 2024

Advertising: After 27 Years, an Answer to the Question, ‘Where’s the Beef?’

To promote a revamping of its mainstay Single, Double and Triple burgers, Wendy’s is reviving “Where’s the beef?” — the query heard in a 1984 commercial that became a national catchphrase.

Snippets of the original commercial, in which Clara Peller querulously bellowed, “Where’s the beef?,” began running Sunday on television and on a Web site, wheresthebeef.com.

The goal of the snippets is to tease consumers into discovering that Wendy’s is finally answering the question by declaring, “Here’s the beef!”— in a new line of Dave’s Hot ’N Juicy Cheeseburgers, named after the Wendy’s founder, R. David Thomas.

In a commercial that is to begin running next Monday, a young man (Reid Ewing of “Modern Family”) born after the heyday of “Where’s the beef?” learns what it means after he buys a vintage T-shirt bearing the phrase and walks around town wearing it. The spot ends with him outside a Wendy’s restaurant looking at a “Here’s the beef!” poster for the new Dave’s cheeseburgers.

Mr. Thomas, who appeared in more than 800 commercials for Wendy’s from 1989 until his death in 2002, is invoked in a new commercial, also set to start running next Monday, in which an actor playing him talks with an actress playing his young daughter, Wendy, the mascot of the company he founded in 1969.

The scene shifts to the actual Wendy Thomas — a k a Melinda Lou Morse, now age 50. Because the new cheeseburgers are “our hottest and juiciest ever,” she says, they are worthy of being named for her father.

“These would’ve made Dad say, ‘Here’s the beef!,’ ” she beams.


The bleak economy is the chief reason for the intensification of the burger wars, which pit Wendy’s against chains like Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Checkers, Five Guys, Hardee’s, In-N-Out and, of course, the mighty McDonald’s. Consumers who are struggling financially are turning to fast-food chains to save money on meals.

“One of the most important things this brand does is to improve the hamburger business,” said Bob Holtcamp, senior vice president for brand marketing at the Wendy’s Company.

“We absolutely want to stand for ‘the best hamburgers in the business,’ bar none,” he added, quoting a vintage Wendy’s slogan.

The new cheeseburgers are “part of an effort we’ve been undertaking the past couple of years to rebuild the core of our menu,” Mr. Holtcamp said, citing the reintroduction last year of French fries under the name Natural-Cut Fries With Sea Salt.

The budget for the campaign for the Dave’s Hot ’N Juicy line will “probably be twice what we normally would do in a launch of a new product,” he added. According to the Kantar Media unit of WPP, Wendy’s spent $19.9 million in 2010 on ads for the new French fries and $22.1 million in the first half of this year.

The campaign for the new burgers will also include print ads, radio commercials, digital banner ads and outdoor ads. Additionally, there will be a significant presence in social media like Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign is part of a continuing effort that was introduced in October 2009 and carries the theme “You know when it’s real.” The campaign is by the Wendy’s creative agency, the Kaplan Thaler Group in New York, part of the Publicis Groupe.

“This was the right time” to bring back “Where’s the beef?” and the Thomases, said Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive at the Kaplan Thaler Group, because “never before has Wendy’s reinvented its cheeseburger.”

“It deserved a 21-gun salute,” she added.

The campaign is “not so much about ‘Where’s the beef?’ as it is about ‘Here’s the beef!,’ ” she said, adding: “We posed the question 27 years ago, and here’s the answer. Everything going forward is about the answer.”

The “Where’s the beef?” commercial was written by Cliff Freeman and directed by Joe Sedelmaier for the old Dancer Fitzgerald Sample agency. Wendy’s parted ways with Ms. Peller a year after its debut, in the wake of her appearance in a spot for Prego Plus pasta sauce in which she declared: “I found it! I really found it!”

Although the Prego parent, Campbell Soup, sold no burgers, Wendy’s said it believed that Ms. Peller “can find the beef in only one place, and that is Wendy’s.” She did not work for Wendy’s again and died in 1987.

Wendy’s negotiated for rights to rerun the 1984 commercial with the Screen Actors Guild, said Mr. Holtcamp, who has fond feelings for Ms. Peller.

“Clara blew ’em out of the water,” he said of her delivery of the slogan, which finished 10th on a list of the “top 10 slogans” of the 20th century compiled by Advertising Age.


Ms. Thomas was once heard in a Wendy’s spot, in 1989, speaking to her father from off camera, but had never been seen in ads until November, when the Dave’s Hot ’N Juicy line was tested in markets like Las Vegas. The new commercial is her first national turn as a Wendy’s pitchwoman.

“It’s kind of nerve-racking,” Ms. Thomas said of ad-making in a phone interview.

But “I’m excited about selling Dave’s Hot ’N Juicy hamburgers,” she added, “and that just makes everything easy.”

Ms. Thomas means “selling” both ways: She and her four siblings are franchisees of Wendy’s, owning 33 stores in Ohio.

Asked if reviving “Where’s the beef?” was a gamble, Ms. Thomas replied: “I think it just speaks to the truth. We have the beef.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=e69d20967da9a39fe1b77176da6c198d

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