A Visit to Wendy's New Post-Dave TV Spots

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Advertiser: Wendy's International
Agency: Bates Worldwide, New York
Star Rating: 2.5

When John Sells bought 400 acres along the Scioto River in the early 1800s, according to a history of the area, "little did he realize that his Village of Dublin would develop into one of the most progressive communities in Central Ohio."

Maybe he dreamed for Dublin to reach only the 20th or 30th percentile of central-Ohio community progressiveness. But certainly he couldn't have imagined his acreage to burgeon into a city of 31,392, much less the microcosm of an entire junk-food nation.

But lo and behold, with the sad passing of Dublin's favorite son, Dave Thomas, it has fallen to the town itself to represent wholesome, grease-bomb-wolfing America.

An inspired move
The first post-Dave campaign from Wendy's International uses the chain's hometown to project the warmth, unpretentiousness, old-fashioned values and easy-going self-deprecation that Dave had embodied for 13 years. And an inspired move it is -- nearly as inspired as recruiting Dave in the first place -- because with a little poetic license from Bates Worldwide, New York, Dublin can become whatever Camelot or Brigadoon or, more likely, Pleasantville, they want it to be.

The slogan: "It's better here," which is ingenious, too, referring at once to mythic Dublin, the place, and Wendy's vis a vis the competition.

But, like the Dave campaign back when, the Dublin work is off to an uneven start. The best of the first three spots focuses on a family with a surprising hint of Malcolm in the Middle dysfunction. The mom is running around looking for Dad, who seems to have vanished, and she gets little help from the sullen kids in finding him. "Have you seen your father," she asks her teenage daughter, who is too preoccupied blow-drying her hair to answer. "Thank you," Mom says, with more resignation that irony.

It's a wonderful moment.

Tell-tale BBQ sauce
Turns out that Dad has sneaked off to Wendy's for a 99-cent order of chicken nuggets, splendidly photographed for maximum appeal and minimum attention to the saturated-fat content. When he comes back, though, he's busted by the barbecue sauce on his shirt. "Who told?" we hear him shout, and it's funnier than it reads here.

The charming Everyfamily appeal of that spot is neutralized, however, by the saccharine campaign introduction, which comes off more like a pro-life message than a fast-food ad.

"In Dublin, Ohio," the cloying voice-over declares, "home of Wendy's, we love kids. The average family has 1.9, but we don't think that's enough. And that's why we go to Wendy's for their crispy chicken nuggets."

Strangely political
Wait a second. First of all, the average Dublin, Ohio, family has only 1.26 kids, so, uh, sorry. Secondly, what is why they go to Wendy's? Because Dubliners think families should be larger? Where's the connection? Presumably the answer is that Wendy's is family-friendly, but the copy simply doesn't make sense, and its chuckling affability doesn't make up for its strangely political opening proposition.

Oh, well. It's early. Dave certainly transcended Bates' copy clumsiness. Meantime, let's hope TV Dublin won't trigger headlines such as these from the Columbus Dispatch:

"BAIT-STORE OWNER CONVICTED OF MURDERING TEEN WORKER"; "DUBLIN SURPRISED BY FBI DRUG STING; CITY POLICE CALLED AFTER SUSPECT IS SHOT," and, our particular favorite, explaining any shortfall on the community progressiveness scale: