Wendy's 99 cents menu ad shines, though visit leaves bad taste

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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?!"

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

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."

"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 cents each."

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

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

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.

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.

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