Reimagining Wendy?s Where?s the Beef? ad for the mobile era

Nostalgia for advertising?s high points from days past is rampant these days even now that ?Mad Men? is officially over, in part because mobile marketing is still relatively unknown and more complex than a TV ad buy. To help connect the dots between what worked then and what works now, Mobile Marketer is revisiting iconic advertising campaigns from the past and considering how they might be remade for the mobile era, starting with Wendy?s influential attack on its competitors during the early days of the burger wars. 
 
?No one could have predicted that amazing consumer response to ?Where?s the Beef? campaign from Wendy?s in 1984,? said Bob Bertini, senior director of internal communications at The Wendy's Company. ?Carla Peller?s engaging personality and the straight-forward, humorous way she delivered the catchphrase cut through the clutter and grabbed people?s attention and imagination.    

?It turned out to be a clever, memorable way to differentiate Wendy?s single hamburger from its competition,? he said. 
 
?There are no plans to create a modern-day digital version of the campaign.?

A 1984 phenomenon
The Where?s the Beef? campaign went viral in an era when viral marketing was not yet a codified strategy. 

The campaign took on a life of its own in 1984, driven by consumer enthusiasm for the TV ads and their spunky spokeswoman, spurring the creation of merchandise such as bumper stickers and t-shirts. 

The slogan even made its way into politics when Vice President Walter Mondale taunted Senator Gary Hart discovered when him with it during a 1984 Democratic presidential debate.

Wendy?s has tried to resurrect the campaign, but without the same impact of the original. With the recent growth in mobile and social ? where the company has been active ? it is not hard to imagine these could amplify the effect. 

 
?Where?s the Beef memes were everywhere,? said Megan McCurry, senior vice president and group media director at DigitasLBi Chicago
 
?Driven by social channels and the power of mobile in everyone?s pocket, today?s adoption would surely be exponentially higher with mobile-driven social channels, like Instagram, which are already flooded with food photos,? she said. 
 
?The obvious extension would be to showcase how a ?modern-day-Clara? would be communicating with her friends to complain. With more than half of internet users 65+ on Facebook already and double-digit growth in smartphone penetration among this group since last year ? to 49 percent adoption per comScore in March ? it?s not hard to think about a character snapping a pic on her phone and posting to Facebook to air her beef about?well, beef.?

New marketing landscape
In some ways, not much has changed since Where?s the Beef? first appeared, with Wendy?s, McDonald?s and Burger King still pulling out all the stops to sway fast-food burger fans away from the competition. TV advertising still plays an important role in these efforts 

However, in other ways, the times are very different. 

The skimpy burgers of the past have been replaced by over-sized portions. 

There is also significant interest in natural, organic and non-GMO ingredients.


From a marketing perspective, savvy marketers recognize that TV campaigns are one-way marketing strategies and today?s consumers want a more direct involvement with their favorite brands. This is where mobile and social come in. 

The need to be on mobile and social is doubly important for brands such as Wendy?s, which are heavily focused on engaging millennials, an audience that spends a significant amount of time on mobile. 
 
 ?Unlike in 1984, mobile and social could allow Wendy?s the opportunity to do more than just run ads, but also let the consumer participate in the idea,? said Nick Miaritis, senior vice president and regional account director at Saatchi & Saatchi New York. ?They could create all types of activations encouraging their loyal fans to post pictures of other lackluster burgers and tag them #wheresthebeef.? 

Locating the beef?While selfie campaigns are fairly standard these days, Wendy?s could go a step further and build off the inherent idea of location in the question ?Where?s the Beef??

One possibility would be to leverage mobile search. 

?I think they could also have some fun with Google and do a search campaign where Where?s the Beef? ads appear when people search for anything related to McDonald?s hamburgers,? Mr. Miaritis said. 
 
?The great thing about the idea is that you don?t have to do much heavy-lifting in terms of getting people to understand what you want to communicate because there?s already so much equity associated with the line,? he said. 
 
A modern Where?s the Beef campaign could also make use of location triggers. 

?Playing on the ?where? in Where?s the Beef? opens a natural connection for location-based targeting in mobile around competitor locations or answering the question to direct consumers to Wendy?s location to find where the beef is,? Ms. McCurry said. 

Mobile games
Branded mobile games have caught the attention of numerous marketers and could easily be applied to Wendy?s campaign. 
Augmented reality could also work here. 
 
?Additional extensions into AR and games ? either in-ad executions or apps ? offer easy inroads to these tech extensions to create more playful engagements,? Ms. McCurry said. ?Those types of engagements lend to the Wendy?s target audience and can conceivably play back into the content featured in the TV spots. 

?Wouldn?t it be great to see an Oculus Rift-wearing, modern-day Clara in video content searching for a real burger,? she said. 

Final Take
?Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York?