Loved the TV Spot, Hated the Restaurant Manager

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Advertiser: Wendy's
Agency: Bates USA, New York
Title: Melon Ball
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is going to be a very complimentary piece, with a large number of stars, so we feel no compunction whatsoever in mentioning that a certain Wendy's store in northern Virginia treated the Ad Review staff like dirt recently.

Now, we know that, operationally, Wendy's tends to be way ahead of the other chains, and we're certainly not the type to use our journalistic pulpit to settle personal scores.

But -- as we think the summer-promotion work from Bates USA, New York, is quite sparkling -- we thought we'd just mention how rude and nasty the night manager is at one Fairfax County Wendy's, where, recently the entire Ad Review staff (we travel

as a posse) was grossly mistreated due to no fault of our own when we blundered into a fully lighted, unlocked store after closing and waited in vain for service until the manager finally screamed at us, "Get out of here! Can't you read?!"

Vile names
Which stung and forced us, against our kindly natures, to call him vile names.

But perhaps we veer off the point, which is that, despite the disgraceful behavior of the jerky night manager at Wendy's in the greater Burke environs, we once again have Wendy's on our radar, thanks mainly to one brilliant, tactical spot promoting the chain's 99¢ menu.

Value menus, of course, are Wendy's own creation, one of the factors that propelled it to steady growth while McDonald's and Burger King steadily sucked wind,

In a recent column about Apple Computer's latest TV work, we referred to the "wireless mouse" that zooms around the screen. The mail, excoriating us for our stupidity and carelessness, poured in. The product is not wireless. It is an optical mouse, which means it has no trackball, but it does have a wire. We foolishly jumped to the conclusion that the mouse was wireless, just because the mouse in the ad had no wire. Clearly, no consumer who sees an ad with a wireless mouse would think the mouse was wireless, so we deeply apologize for our error.
cc: Federal Trade Commission.

even when they came up with value menus of their own. But Wendy's believes -- with some justification -- that its 99¢ offerings make the competition's seem pale in comparison. So here comes a spot to drive that point home.

Value menus
The spot begins from the point of view of someone surfing fast-food joints for palatable items from their value menus. In one goofy looking place after another, we see the counter staff recite the offerings:

"Olive loaf." "Pigs' feet." "Squid's awesome!"

"Tofu toast points." "Pierogies."

Then the voice-over: "Some odd choices have been appearing on value menus."

"The boxed nuts are nice."

Melon balls
"Deviled eggs." "Try the egg salad." "Do you like melon balls?"

"Grilled cheese."

Again, the voice-over: "But not at Wendy's. Our Super Value Meals have hot 'n' juicy junior bacon cheeseburgers, crispy french fries and two fresh salads -- all the things you really love, just 99¢ each."

"Fish balls, meat balls, chicken balls ..."

Voice-over: "The Super Value Menu, part of Wendy's Summer of 99¢."

Ok, granted, grilled cheese isn't really a laugh line. It would be a perfectly acceptable option. And fish balls aren't really on the menu at McDonald's, are they? But the idea here isn't to create verisimilitude. The idea is to hyperbolically observe that the menu item has no value if the very thought of consuming it makes you want to heave. Furthermore, we can't help but grade on a curve here. With but a few exceptions, Wendy's "comic" ads for the past 10 years have been so phenomenally, pitifully, sometimes painfully unfunny that this spot, relatively speaking, is a pants-wetter.

Boxed nuts
Anyway, "the boxed nuts are nice" is funny on any scale.

There are lots of funny ads out there in TV land, of course, and a fair number of sharply focused ones. But funny and sharply focused are still a relatively rare commodity.

Interestingly, in addition, while these fake-competitors' restaurants have been contrived to seem oddball and unappetizing, every single employee represented here is much more polite than that melon ball who verbally abused us at the Wendy's in northern Virginia.