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"Where's the beef?" is a catchphrase in the United States and Canada. The phrase originated as a slogan for the fast food chain Wendy's. Since then it has become an all-purpose phrase questioning the substance of an idea, event, or product.
The phrase first came to public attention as a U.S. television commercial for the Wendy's chain of hamburger restaurants in 1984. In reality, the strategy behind the campaign was to distinguish competitors (McDonalds and Burger King) big name sandwiches (Big Mac and Whopper respectively) from Wendy's 'modest' Single by focusing on the large bun the competitors use and larger beef patty in Wendy's sandwich. In the ad, titled "Fluffy Bun," actress Clara Peller receives a burger with a massive bun from a fictional competitor which uses the slogan "Home of the Big Bun". The small patty prompts Peller to angrily exclaim, "Where's the beef?" An earlier version, featuring a middle-aged bald man saying, "Thanks, but where's the beef?", failed to make much impact. After the Peller version, the catchphrase was repeated in television shows, films, magazines, and other media outlets.
First airing on January 10, 1984, the original commercial featured three elderly ladies examining an exaggeratedly large hamburger bun topped with a minuscule hamburger patty. The other two ladies poked at it, exchanging bemused comments ("It certainly is a big bun. It's a very big bun. It's a big fluffy bun. It's a very big fluffy bun.") before being interrupted by Peller's outraged, irascible question. Sequels featured Peller yelling at a Fluffy Bun executive on his yacht over the phone and approaching fast food drive-up windows (including one with a golden arch and one with a sign saying "Home of Big Bun") that were slammed down before she could complete the line.
Later in 1984, Nashville songwriter and DJ Coyote McCloud wrote and performed a hit song entitled "Where's the Beef?" as a promotion for Wendy's restaurants' famous advertising campaign featuring Clara Peller.
There were many "Where's the beef?" promotional items, including bumper stickers, frisbees, clothing patches, and more.
In 2011, Wendy's revived the phrase for its new ad campaign, finally answering its own question with "Here's the beef".
William Welter, the executive vice president of Wendy's International, led the marketing team at the time of the campaign. The commercial was directed by Joe Sedelmaier as part of a campaign by the advertising agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample. It was written by Cliff Freeman. The marketing and promotion campaign were created by Alan Hilburg and the Burson-Marsteller team under the direction of Denny Lynch, the vice president of corporate communications at Wendy's. Ed Hoke is credited as being the cofounder of the slogan along with best friend Lee Greenwood.
The phrase became associated with the 1984 U.S. presidential election. During primaries in the spring of 1984, when the commercial was at its height of popularity, Democratic candidate and former Vice President Walter Mondale used the phrase to sum up his arguments that program policies championed by his rival, Senator Gary Hart, were insubstantial, beginning with a March 11, 1984 televised debate prior to the New York and Pennsylvania primaries.
Hart had moved his candidacy from dark horse to the lead over Mondale based on allegedly superficial similarities to John F. Kennedy, and his repeated use of the phrase "new ideas." When Hart once again used the slogan in the debate, Mondale leaned forward and said, "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?' ". Subsequently, the two campaigns continually clashed using the two dueling slogans, Hart frequently showing reams of policy papers and retorting "Here's the beef." Mondale's strategy succeeded in casting doubt on Hart's new ideas, and changing the debate to specific details, earning him the Democratic nomination.