Pop culture is full of catchy but silly catchphrases from TV shows, public events and even commercials. One commercial that was just too perfectly ridiculous was the famous "Where's the beef?" commercial of 1984. The best way to sell products in commercials is to be memorable, whether you go for an informational or comedic approach. And what could be more memorable than three old ladies investigating a giant hamburger bun?
Where's The Beef Commercial
The "Where's the beef" television commercial was for the fast food chain Wendy's, and its famous catchphrase is now used in many contexts when questioning the substance or validity of something. Not only was Wendy's trying to catch the public's attention, they were also throwing shade on their competitors, Burger King and McDonald's. The marketing team was led by William Welter at the time, the executive vice president of Wendy's International and the advertising agency they used was Dancer Fitzgerald Sample.
The goal was to make the point that the Wendy's hamburger is just as big as the Big Mac and Whopper, and Wendy's accomplished this in a hilarious and creative way. In the ad, which was titled "Fluffy Bun," an elderly lady is served a burger with a gigantic bun from a fictional competitor, whose slogan is "Home of the Big Bun." The tiny patty on the bun causes the woman, acted by Clara Peller, to indignantly ask, "Where's the beef?" The director, Joe Sedelmaier, told Peller to say "Where is all the beef?" but that was too difficult because of Peller's emphysema.
Although Peller was the one who's line took the public by storm, there were actually three elderly ladies at the Big Bun burger joint. The other two ladies investigated and poked the massive bun, making confused observations like "It certainly is a big bun. It's a very big bun. It's a big fluffy bun." One of the ladies eventually lifts the top of the bun to show an exaggeratedly tiny hamburger bun with cheese and pickle. This is the moment where Peller angrily asks after the beef.
Wendy's had originally tried the tv commercial with a bald man exclaiming the famous catchphrase, but that didn't have quite the same effect. Sequels to the original commercial show Peller yelling at Fluffy Bun executives over the phone and showing up to the "Home of the Big Bun" drive-thru, but the drive-up window was slammed down before she could yell her famous line.
The Catchphrase in Pop Culture
After the Wendy's commercial was released on January 10, 1984, the catchphrase was an immediate hit. Along with the hilarious sequels, there was merchandise made, from Frisbees to T-shirts to bumper stickers, and even a board game was created. Peller even recorded a "Where's the Beef?" single with Nashville songwriter and disc jockey Coyote McCloud, which became a hit song that promoted Wendy's restaurants.
The ad was so successful that Wendy's annual revenue skyrocketed, increasing by 31%. The catchphrase was even a part of the 1984 presidential election when Democratic candidate and former Vice President Walter Mondale asked "Where's the beef?" to criticize rival Gary Hart's insubstantial campaign. When Mondale then lost to Reagan, the ad's director Joe Sedelmaier remarked, "If Walter Mondale could have said the line like Clara, he would have been our president."
Where's the Beef Now?
The ad ended a year later, in 1985, when Peller acted in a Prego spaghetti sauce commercial saying "I found it, I really found it," in regards to the missing beef. In 2011, Wendy's brought the phrase back for a new ad campaign, answering the age-old question with "Here's the beef." Last year, when stores were struggling to supply beef, Wendy's revived the ad, bringing some much-needed levity to the situation.