Bet that title got your attention, eh? Now, let me whisper three little words that I’ve been meaning to say to you all for quite a while now…
“Where’s the beef?”
Yeah, okay. Those words have never been whispered. They’ve always been yelled. By this tiny, incredibly hard-of-hearing octogenarian:
(And we wonder why we were stuck with Reagan for two terms.)
So, what’s this all about then? On January 10, 1984, American fast food chain Wendy’s launched a new marketing campaign, aimed at making viewers believe that their competitors skimped on how much beef they used for their burgers. The campaign, originally named “Fluffy Bun,” featured three elderly women examining a big, fluffy bun before discovering that the bun hid a tiny little hockey puck of a burger. One of the women, disgruntled by this discovery, proceeds to utter this now quite famous line. Multiple times. Loudly.
For full disclosure, Clare Peller yelled the line because she was quite hard-of-hearing. She was totally allowed to be hard-of-hearing. She was 81 years old at the time Wendy’s ad firm cast her in this and subsequent commercials. Because, of course, America fell in love with her and her memorable delivery of this catchy line. She starred in several different “Where’s the Beef” commercials until Wendy’s fired her a year later for spoofing her famous line in a Prego commercial. In 1987, Peller passed away at the age of 85.
I can’t believe today marks the 30th anniversary of the debut of this moment of marketing genius. Is it fair to ascribe so much to this series of commercials? I think so. A quick, pithy catchphrase is priceless. Just ask Nike. Combine it with a memorable spokesperson and you’ve struck gold. Just ask Hertz.
Er. Maybe not.
Of course, Wendy’s regrouped after “Beef Gate” and came back with a new campaign starring founder Dave Thomas that proved equally memorable. Just without the cool catchphrase designed to drive everyone crazy after a week. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Still, it was fun while it lasted.
This was my favorite of the “Where’s the Beef” ads:
And then there’s this…er, gem. Enjoy!