Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wendy's - Where's the Beef

It was the deep blue recessionary phase of the 1980s in USA. When all the companies were finding it hard to minimise growing losses, the US Hamburger Giant Wendy's International showed the courage to propagate one simple message that brought about the most significant landmark in its 15 year long history. "Where's the Beef?", the campaign mastered by Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample Ad Agency was first aired on January 10th, 1984. Two elderly ladies were shown staring at an exorbitantly huge hamburger bun only to find a minuscule hamburger patty in between. Enters an octogenarian Clara Peller adamantly prompting the obvious question, "Where's the Beef?". And hence it is skillfully implied that the only place you'll get ample portion of beef in a hamburger is at Wendy's!

Soon after the campaign got out, Wendy's earnings doubled, tripled and quadrupled. Gone were the recessionary blues and the Hamburger giant was beefing up on $76.2 million record earnings within the next one year. The 2600 unit burger chain went on to expand its consumer base globally to 6000 Wendy's units post the campaign's success. Not to mention it also acquired 45% stake in Cafe Express while enjoying the phrase's growing popularity across USA and Canada.

Wendy's would have fathomed a triumph, but never in their wildest dreams could they have envisaged the phrase to get associated with the 1984 US Presidential Elections. During the primary elections, former Vice President Walter Mondale used the phrase to criticise his opponent Senator Gary Hart in a televised debate. A TVC's phrase becoming a catalyst in political wars; now who could have seen that coming !!!

Not just that, the phrase was repeatedly heard in sitcoms like Scrubs,The Simpsons and The Office. Singers started using it in their lyrics; now that's phenomenal! Right from the rib chuckling commercial to the laughter rending print ad, the campaign was one shot ace straight at the bull's eye. An 80s out-of-the-box idea of incorporating an old lady, and not a burger eating student, caught the attention of Ad maven David Apicella of Ogilvy who considered this to be the best line in a commercial over the past 25 years. Fascinating it is, that the campaign was only worth $7 Millions, but Wendy's gained $32 Millions on the circulation of the commercial itself. Now that's called cashing in on a question !