Thursday, September 20, 2018
  • Stuck in the '80s
  • Steve Spears

On this date, Wendy’s first asked: Where’s the beef?

On January 10, 1984, an actress named Clara Peller demanded to know "Where's the beef?" during a commercial for Wendy's hamburgers and the pop culture world hasn't been the same since.

"Where's the beef" instantly became a catchphrase, and Wendy's sales jumped 31 percent in a single year. That was good news for ad agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, which developed the spot (and was also responsible for Toyota's "Oh what a feeling!" Campaign).

Here are five things that perhaps you don't remember about the "Where's the beef" phenomenon:

1. Peller was 80 years old when she first got into the acting business and caught the attention of casting agents after appearing as a cleaning lady in ads for the Massachusetts State Lottery.

2. The commercial was originally supposed to star a young couple, but the director didn't think the idea was funny enough, so he cast three senior citizens instead.

3. Clara's original line was supposed to read "Where is all the beef?" but the actress was suffering from emphysema and the line was too long for her to deliver comfortably. She originally earned just over $300 for the day's work (though reports are that later Wendy's paid her closer to $500,000.)

4. The catchphrase was so popular that Walter Mondale used it to slam fellow Democrat Gary Hart with it during a 1984 presidential debate.

5. Once the "Where's the beef?" campaign ended, sales took a 5-year nosedive for Wendy's. The chain would then be rescued by a new ad campaign starring company founder Dave Thomas.

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