Fifteen years ago, when founder Dave Thomas was introduced as the spokesman for Wendy's, we observed that the casting was inspired, but Dave's performance a little lacking.
OK, a lot lacking. We were really mean to the guy, God rest his soul. But the product-presenter fit was, indeed, perfect-a square and old-fashioned Dave pitching Wendy's square and old fashioned burgers. He was ideal and cherished and irreplaceable. Only, two years after Dave's death, Wendy's has to move on.
Enter "Mr. Wendy," another character and concept with potential staying power. The premise is that he's not an official Wendy's spokesman (how could anyone ever really take Dave's place?), but just an enthusiastic volunteer who takes it upon himself to share the good news. Sort of a John the Baptist figure, only with a plaid shirt, a bullhorn and probably much higher cholesterol.
What's good about Mr. Wendy is that he-like Dave and the "Jack" character for Jack in the Box-can furnish personality and continuity in otherwise unrelated commercials for various menu items. If all goes well, the recurring whimsy will make audiences pay attention to see what this goofball is up to now.
What's unfortunate so far is that Mr. Wendy isn't very good at the role, and his lines aren't much to work with. It's a clever idea, uncleverly realized.
That's what feels so familiar. It's like Dave Redux. The Dave campaign, of course, proved to be conceptually strong enough to transcend its generally sloppy executions, and so might this be. But it would help if McCann-Erickson, New York, would sharpen its writing, film more takes until the timing is right and give the central joke a chance to breathe. At the moment, it's all a bit suffocating.
McCann-Erickson, New York