“Where’s the Beef?” – The story of the iconic 1980s Wendy’s commercial
Many iconic commercials and catchphrases have existed over the years, but in the 1980s one made by the fast food giant Wendy’s was above them all.
“Where’s the Beef?” was a commercial catchphrase for Wendy’s.
It came out in 1984 and was used to question other fast food companies for their lack of meat.
The commercial featured an unknown actress, Clara Peller, and was created by Joe Sedelmaier.
The phrase skyrocketed Wendy’s profits and became one of the most famous catchphrases of all time.
The catchphrase had a huge impact on pop culture throughout the decade and further.
It would be repeated everywhere and made Clara Peller — the woman who spoke the phrase — world famous.
The phrase “Where’s the Beef?” continued to grow and would be used to question things such as ideas, events, or products as to if they had any substance.
At the time, McDonald’s and Burger King were leaders of the fast-food burger market.
So, they promoted the size of their burgers with products like the “Big Mac” and the “Whopper.”
Wendy’s didn’t have a specific “big-name” type burger, and most of their products were single patty burgers.
However, they contained more meat than they believed people realized.
They wanted to showcase that their hamburger had more beef and that McDonald’s and Burger King were hiding their lack of meat by using larger buns.
The huge impact of “Where’s the Beef?”
Advertising is tricky these days.
There are so many things struggling for your attention, therefore, making it difficult for advertisers to find the right platform.
In the ‘80s, there were only three networks, making it much easier to get your message across to a good majority of the public.
Anything on network television could blow up by the next day.
You could be an unknown comic and have a great set on Johnny Carson, and the next day you were a household name.
This was the case with the “Where’s the Beef?” commercial when it aired in 1984.
Everyone was instantly aware of it and embraced its uniqueness.
It caught on so fast that it became a cultural phenomenon and made Peller somewhat of a cult star.
This was good for Wendy’s as every restaurant generated at least 10 percent more sales in 1984 than they did in 1983.
Overall sales jumped by 31 percent to $945 million worldwide by 1985.
The cultural impact it had
“Where’s the Beef?” made it on late-night talk shows and even turned into a song.
A Nashville songwriter named Coyote McCloud recorded and performed his version of “Where’s the Beef?” and it was a big hit.
“Where’s the Beef?” even crept its way into the 1984 presidential election.
During the primaries of the spring of 1984, Democratic candidate and former vice-president Walter Mondale used the phrase against his opponent, Gary Hart.
Mondale said that the program policies put forward by Hart were lacking in substance.
This was at the peak of the popularity of the commercial and was a great way to tap into the public consciousness by using a topical phrase.
This all happened during a debate on TV just before the New York and Pennsylvania primaries.
His platform was based on the concept of “new ideas.”
Hart kept pushing the “new ideas” viewpoint in all his debates.
Mondale seemed like he was waiting for this and after Hart repeated it during the debate, Mondale said:
It ended up bringing doubt to Hart’s new ideas and helped Mondale win the Democratic nomination.
What started out as an attempt by Wendy’s to call out their competitors turned into a pop-culture milestone.